The “Holy Grail” of Digital Humanists – Some Thoughts About “Understanding Data” (for Humanists)

When the blog post „Taste the Data” by Jim Casey (CDH Princeton) was nominated for republishing at Open Methods, my reaction was a little bit divided. On the one hand the nomination had my full support, but on the other hand, I couldn’t held back a tiny critical remark: great didactic idea, but … really??? I followed my first impulse to mock the article a little. It seemed too silly to explore “data” with jelly beans, Peeps and various sauces in order to discover important information and structures in a data set. Do most people not take in important information about their environment with their eyes? Isn’t it the same when dealing with data?

Some thoughts about these questions are published in my blog post as guest author at DARIAH Open


Stefan Karcher

(Contact:; @streka on Twitter); I started using and working with digital methods of text analysis during the work on my doctoral thesis in theology (Homiletics and Church History). A bunch of autographs - more than 10.000 handwritten pages packed up messily in 20 boxes - led me to the question: "How would I ever overview these?" In fact, I didn't! But while I was sorting the documents, forms, letters, lecture manuscripts etc in a new classification scheme for literary remains (Nachlass Heinrich Bassermann), I thought a database and analyzing only the metadata could help to find the most important information and sources for my dissertation. So my reflections about digital humanities were born out of necessity. Meanwhile, I made a virtue out of that necessity. Since my graduation in the major subjects History and Theology in 2013, I worked on a dissertation about Heinrich Bassermann (1849-1909) and his homiletic principles of academic sermons (finished in July 2019). Besides I'm employed as QMR and head of the examination office at the Faculty of Theology. At the moment I'm plannig a PostDoc project (with a stronger DH focus)

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