Digital approaches towards serial publications (18th–20th centuries)

Venue: Rubenszaal, Royal Academies for Sciences and Arts of Belgium, Hertogsstraat 1 Rue Ducale, 1000 Brussels. This workshop is kindly hosted by the Royal Academies for Sciences and Arts of Belgium, as part of their Contact Forum series. 

The past few years have seen an increasing interest in Natural Language Processing and other text-mining techniques in the humanities. This tendency has been sparked by the distant reading approaches for literary theory, which aim to draw general conclusions on larger amounts of text using computational techniques. This way of tackling data has gained momentum, and many (large scale) projects have been set up in order to meet the expectations of humanities scholars wanting to make sense of the vast amount of digitised data that has become available in public domain, primarily, 18th and 19th but also 20th century publications. For some time NLP has been mainly used for the confirmation of existing historical knowledge, but now many techniques and tools have become more mature, it is time to draw an intermediary balance of NLP and text mining in general and the mining of serial publications in particular. Moreover, it also time to question the phenomenon of ‘scientific serendipity’ and NLP as a set of technologies enabling such serendipity.

This workshop brings together humanists, social scientists and computational scientists who have been working with historical serial texts and/or periodicals: including newspapers, journals, book series, congress series, etc. We are mainly interested in reflections upon completed case-studies: the research results compared to the initial expectations, examples of the phenomenon of ‘scientific serendipity’, the theoretical and heuristical implications of the choices made during the research process, comparisons between NLP and other methods such as Semantic Network Analysis. Last but not least, we will reflect upon graphical approaches to text corpora, such as visualisation methods that are en vogue for exploratory searching, analysis and communication of textual analysis. From n-grams through tree diagrams to word clouds: what are the epistemological implications of using graphic displays developed outside the humanities?

The workshop is free, but registration is required. Please register here. 

If you are looking for a place to stay we recommend Motel One Brussels on Rue Royale 120, 1000 Brussels, Belgium.   

This workshop is kindly hosted by the Royal Academies for Sciences and Arts of Belgium, as part of their Contact Forum series. 

Draft Programme (Last update: 17.8.2017)


Day 1 - Monday 11 September 2017

13:30 - Registration with coffee 

Session 1. 14:00-15:30

  • Michael Piotrowski (Université de Lausanne), Historical Models and Serial Sources.
  • Gunther Martens, Thorsten Ries (Ghent University) and Mike Kestemont (University of Antwerp), A challenge for stylometry and authorship attribution methods: Goethe‘s contributions to the Frankfurter Gelehrte Anzeigen 1772/73.
  • Manfred Nölte and Martin Blenkle (State and University Library Bremen), “Die Grenzboten” on its way to virtual research environments and infrastructures.

15:30 - Coffee

Session 2. 16:00 – 17:30

  • Julie M. Birkholz & Marianne Van Remoortel (Ghent University), Mapping reprinting practices: a semantic network analysis of items sourced from “Der Bazar” and affiliated journals, 1860-1870.
  • Diana Roig Sanz (Open University of Catalonia/ KU Leuven), Laura Fólica (Open University of Catalonia), Ventsislav Ikoff (Open University of Catalonia), Graphical Approaches and Visualization Methods for Mapping Hispanic Literary Journal’s International Modernity (1915-1939).
  • Thomas D’Haeninck (Ghent University), Simon Hengchen (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Christophe Verbruggen (Ghent University), A genealogy of causes: recognizing social reform topics in 19th century congress series.


19:00 - Conference dinner @ Le Berger by Vini Divini (self-paid)


Day 2 - Tuesday 12 September 2017

Session 3a. 09:30-10:30

  • Eva Pettersson (Uppsala University), Spelling normalisation and linguistic analysis for information extraction.
  • François Dominic Laramée, (Université de Montréal), Text mining a noisy corpus of Ancien Régime French periodicals: a war story

10:30 - Coffee

Session 3b. 11:00-12:00

  • Giovanni Colavizza and Matteo Romanello (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne), Citation mining of humanities journals: a comparison of two recent projects
  • Mathias Coeckelbergs and Seth van Hooland (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Tracking evolution in European policy development based on a large archival corpus: using JSTOR’s TopicGraph and controlled vocabularies to facilitate the diachronic analysis of archival holdings of the European Commission from the 1950s until 1980s.


12:00 - Lunch

Session 4.  13:00-14:30

  • Mikko Tolonen (University of Helsinki), Language, Location and Form of Newspapers in Finland, 1771-1920
  • Christophe Verbruggen (Ghent University), Simon Hengchen (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Tecle Zere (Ghent University) and Joke Daems (Ghent University), Workers of the world? A digital approach towards the international scope of Belgian socialist newspapers, 1885-1940
  • Joris Van Eijnatten (University of Utrecht), In praise of frequency. Generating and visualising the collective mentalities of the past.

14:30 - Coffee

Session 5. 15:00-17:30

Serial Publications and Digital Scholarship: Opportunities and Challenges: a Roundtable Discussion, chaired by Sally Chambers, Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities 


17:30 - Reception

Scientific committee: Sally Chambers (Ghent University), Steven Claeyssens (Royal Library Netherlands), Simon Hengchen (Université libre de Bruxelles), Mike Kestemont (Antwerp University), Frédéric Lemmers (Royal Library of Belgium), Seth van Hooland (Université libre de Bruxelles), Marianne Van Remoortel (Ghent University), Joris Van Eijnatten (Utrecht University), Charles Van den Heuvel (University of Amsterdam), Christophe Verbruggen (Ghent University).

Sponsored by: TIC Collaborative (Belspo-Brain), Research Com­munity Digi­tal Humani­ties Flan­ders (FWO), DARIAH-VL (FWO), ReSIC ULB and Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities.

We would also like to thank the Royal Academies for Sciences and Arts of Belgium for supporting this workshop as part of their Contact Forum series.