Digitality, Data, Digital Humanities

October 21, 2019

The digitisation of our society is increasingly affecting the lives of its members. This also applies to research in the humanities: most research processes – from accessing sources and literature online and internet-supported communication within the scholarly community to the finished publication – use digital tools nowadays. Perhaps more importantly, however, digitisation does not only facilitate existing processes, it also introduces new methods and even new research objects. Within the framework of the early career scholars’ conference ‘Digitality, Data, Digital Humanities’, which took place from 18 – 20 September 2019 at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin at the Institute for German Literature, junior researchers discussed the potentials and limits of digital methods in the humanities. In addition to historians and literary scholars, who have practiced the ‘close reading’ of texts for several years, musicologists, philosophers and economists also took part, resulting in a stimulating interdisciplinary debate.

The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History was represented by Anselm Küsters, who works on the history of European competition law within the framework of the Institute’s Research Field Legal History of the European Union. The aim of his doctoral thesis is to examine the influence of various economic doctrines on this area of European law by introducing previously unconsidered source material and an innovative methodology to the scholarly debate. In his lecture at the conference, Küsters presented the second chapter of his doctoral thesis, which analyses the ordoliberal competition school not only from a historical and biographical but also from a quantitative perspective. Various text mining techniques can be used to evaluate the wealth of semantic data left behind by ordoliberal scholars in the form of papers and other publications. These techniques are based on the assumption that the frequency of certain words and their interaction in a corpus form reliable indicators of subliminal themes, emotions and discourses. In his presentation, Küsters explained how to estimate a Structural Topic Model based on all articles published in the ordoliberal journal ORDO. The results allow us to define ordoliberal competition policy, to identify the most important topics, concepts and persons of this school of thought and to visualise the changing meaning of key terms.

The event was sponsored by the German National Academic Foundation’s programme line ‘Scholarship holders make programmes’. Special thanks go to the three organisers, Sophie König (Hamburg), Johanna Steiner (Rostock) and Lydia Rammerstorfer (Berlin), who put together a diverse programme that enabled stimulating discussions.

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