Does Interpretation Have a Future? Hermeneutics in Times of Big Data

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In this workshop, we seek to provide possible answers to the question: what does the replacement of writing by code mean for the future of reading and interpretation? With increasing reliance on algorithms and big data, does interpretation even have a future? What constitutes reading today, and what could hermeneutics look like in a digital age? Hermeneutics traditionally refers to the method and study of textual interpretation. Modern hermeneutics has its origin in textual exegesis, the interpretation of the Old Testament. It revolves around building bridges—between the present and the past, the familiar and the strange. In a time of post-truth, filter bubbles, and alternative facts, such perspectives are worth remembering and reiterating.

In our information age, we can predict to an increasingly precise degree what kinds of messages will resonate with us, and we can simply filter out the rest. In the Humanities and Social Sciences, the shift to datafication transforms our research fields in far-reaching ways, including how we think, how we formulate our research questions, and what answer we find. Was interpretation, then, a historically necessary, but equally contingent mode? In what terms do we need to think about it as we move into a culture of big data, distributed AI, convergence, and globalization? Where does our influence end that that of the black box begin; and where does the analysis of the machine end, and our responsibility begin? After all, data still is, and needs to be, interpreted. The workshop brings together scholars from diverse disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences to engage in a cross-disciplinary dialogue on these matters.

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Critical writing presented:

Umbrella shields person at desk with computer from a rain made of numbers.
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Hannah Ackermans
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