Critique of Pure Digital Reason: Validating Distant Reading from a Comparative Perspective

Since the beginning of the current century, the field of digital humanities has been described as an innovative and promising branch that will change the field of the humanities, pave new ways for understanding human society, and build a strong bridge between different disciplines. This development, which goes hand in hand with other cultural, technological and academic developments, raises many hopes, but also critical responses: does it not entail a dangerous renunciation of the ‘good old’ humanistic tradition?
Can computers 'understand' phenomena as humans understand them? What is really the value of ‘distant reading', as it is called following Moretti? Twenty years after the great and optimistic breakthrough in the
field it can be said that these questions do not stem from mere conservatism. Although almost no one questions the analytical power of the computer anymore, or the potential contribution of computationality
to the field of the humanities, it seems that this potential is still a long way from being realized. Various scholars point to problems in the research conducted in the digital humanities. The achievements already
made in the field also suffer from what Adam Hammond called “the double bind of validation,” i.e. the fact that on the one hand many computational studies prove things we already knew in advance, without any advanced aids, and on the other hand, more groundbreaking computational studies produce such surprising results that we have no ability to confirm or deny them.
The project proposed here follows the call of Hammond, Underwood, Meister and other leading researchers for the validation of the digital humanities, that is, the beginning of a new and more mature era
in the field, where we will not only speak in the future-tense about what could be done theoretically, but in the present tense, about what is actually being done: an era in which we put to a balanced and careful critical test the successes against the failures, and develop tools for more effective, fruitful and meaningful research progress.
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