Approaches towards a genuin digital hermeneutic

Posted on 30 October 2017

Talk: Leif Scheuermann (ACDH, Universtät Graz), “Approaches towards a genuin digital hermeneutic”.


Date: Monday, 30 October 2017

Time: starting at 17:00 c.t. (i.e. 17:15)

Venue: DAI, Wiegandhaus, Podbielskiallee 69-71, D-14195 Berlin (map)


Today Humanities are an agglomerate of several academic disciplines, which are subsumed under the generic term. Such a pragmatic classification may work for the administration, but not as a foundation of a new discipline, called „Digital Humanities“ (for the discussion of a self-definition of the Digital Humanities see: HOBOHM (2015); HERRMANN (2015)). Therefor it is essential to have a closer look at the original definition established in the 19th century – especially at Wilhelm Diltheys (1833–1911) „Abgrenzungen der Geisteswissenschaften“ (DILTHEY (1970)).

For Dilthey the Humanities try to understand human expressions of life, while natural sciences observe and explain nature (PALMER (1969) pp. 105). Its scope is „the experience, the comprehension of other experiences and judgements and terms, which express experienced and understood circumstances” (DILTHEY, Wilhelm (1970) S. 376. (translation Leif Scheuermann)) without neglecting the “objective perception of its subject” (Ebd. S. 379), and its methodology is the hermeneutics, which approaches it’s topic via these three steps - experience, expression, and comprehension.

What does this now mean for the “Digital Humanities”?

  • DH as a science of experience have to base on empiricism but have to exceed it

  • The central method of DH have to be digital hermeneutics, which means not to reconstruct or reproduce something “originally”, but to experience , to comprehend and to express it in new terms in a digital world.

DH is not the same as „Computer aided Humanities“. The whole process has to take place in digital media, which means it is not just the use of databases using data mining methods as a source for analogue texts. One major challenge for the DH is to find new ways of conception, of assessment as well as of expressing this process. Therefore the free combination of very different sources and analyses is indispensable. On the other hand the researcher is directly involved in the process and has to document it self-referentially. The presentation of the results of the process of research have to be genuine digital, which means that the primacy of text and the narrative has to be cancelled and replaced by a multimedia network structure. Topic of this lecture is it to go this way a step further and to evaluate ways of genuine digital hermeneutics. Two questions will be focused:

  • How to combine most different sources and analytical methods in one computer based system?

  • How to map / visualize the hermeneutic process? Furthermore approaches for the technical implementation of a collaborative genuine digital research framework will be presented.

For a more detailed exposition see SCHEUERMANN (2015).


DILTHEY, Wilhelm (1970), Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften. Frankfurt a.M. Suhrkamp.

HERRMANN, Felix (2015), Group review Understanding/Debates in the Digital Humanities URL: (last seen 31-05-2016).

HOBOHM, Hans-Christoph(2015), Group review Digital Humanities: URL: (last seen 31-05-2016).

PALMER, Richard (1969). Hermeneutics. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

SCHEUERMANN, Leif: Die Abgrenzung der digitalen Geisteswissenschaften. In: Digital Classics 2, Leipzig 2015. DOI:



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