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Big Data, Global Villages

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image of Philological Encounters

How should the field of philology react to the ongoing quantitative growth of its material basis? This essay will first discuss two opposing strategies: The quantitative analysis of large amounts of data, promoted above all by Franco Moretti, is contrasted with the canon-oriented method of resorting to small corpora. Yet both the culturally conservative anxiety over growing masses of texts as well as the enthusiasm for the ‘digital humanities’ and the technological indexation of large text corpora prove to be unmerited when considering the complexity of the problem. Therefore, this essay advocates for a third, heuristic approach, which 1) accounts for the changes in global text production and storage, 2) is conscious of the material-political conditions that determine the accessibility of texts, and 3) creates a bridge between close and distant reading by binding quantitative approaches to fundamental, qualitative philological principles, thus helping philologists keep track of the irritating, provocative, and subversive elements of texts that automated queries inevitably miss.

Affiliations: 1: Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach marcel.lepper@dla-marbach.de

10.1163/24519197-00000006
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2016-01-26
2017-12-12

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