Alfalab at the Computational Turn

The Computational Turn workshop, held at Swansea University on March 9, 2010, featured keynote addresses by Katherine Hayles and Lev Manovich, and presented a set of contemporary projects and ideas in the field of digital humanities. Through stimulating presentations and discussions, the workshop participants have jointly shed light on methodological, epistemological and other questions relevant in the modern-day digital humanities endeavor.

An underlying workshop theme—what patterns may be yielded through computational analyses and how do they relate to meaning sought in the humanities—gave rise to important questions and various stances regarding the ‘computational turn’ in contemporary scholarship. For instance, in an interesting cross-fertilization of expertise, humanities scholars have highlighted the rewards of ‘distant reading’ in literary, legal and other texts, while computer scientists have brought to light the significance of ‘close reading’ related to code and software. Similarly, the well-known motif ‘what can computation do for humanities’ has constructively been rephrased into less commonly asked yet ever increasingly important question ‘what can humanities do for computing’, and in reflexive deliberation on ‘what can computation do to humanities’.

A broad spectrum of contributions from the social sciences, humanities and computer science presented at the workshop confirmed that ‘the computational turn’ largely exceeds insular focusing on computation and, instead, requires a comprehensive understanding of epistemological, methodological and socio-cultural implications arising from such a turn.

At this workshop, the Alfalab members, Joris van Zundert and Smiljana Antonijevic, presented a collaborative piece ‘Cultures of Formalization’ written by Joris van Zundert, Smiljana Antonijevic, Anne Beaulie, Karina van Dalen-Oskam, Douwe Zeldenrust and Tara Andrews.

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