Programming for the Humanities

European Summer School in Digital Humanities

From the 22nd of July to the 1st of August, the University of Leipzig together with Clarin-D organized the European Summer School in Digital Humanities “Culture & Technology” (website). The summer school aims at bringing together scholars from the Humanities, Engineering and Information Sciences to create the conditions for future project-oriented collaboration and networking across the borders of the individual disciplines.


This year, Folgert Karsdorp, Ph.D candidate in the Tunes & Tales project at the Meertens Institute, was invited to teach a workshop on advanced topics in humanities programming with Python. Digital humanists use digital methods to help them answer research questions in the humanities. The vast majority of digital humanists rely on existing tools to perform the necessary digital operations on their data. The starting point of the course was that this is both severely limiting for the scholar and harmful for the discipline of digital humanities. In this course, the students have explored one avenue to DH liberation and empowerment: writing their own tools. The participants used the scripting language Python to explore their data using simple yet powerful scripts to harness the potential of existing algorithms and techniques.


The advanced lessons are part of the online and interactive course on Python Programming for the Humanities, which is available online. A total of four chapters were added to the existing materials. In these chapters, students learn about some of the essential techniques to efficiently search through large collections of text (Chapter 7),

how to create a real web application to search through their own collections of PDF files (Chapter 8), elementary techniques from Machine Learning to perform authorship attribution (Chapter 9) and about unsupervized techniques to organize and categorize data (Chapter 10). Scholars who want to further their knowledge about programming in general and improve their skills in more advanced topics in humanities programming, are very much invited to download the course here.

DARIAH International Digital Humanities Summer School
From the 17th to the 30th of August, the Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities organized the 2014 DARIAH-DE International Digital Humanities Summer School in Göttingen. The school offered two strands: textual analysis and 3D modeling. In the textual analysis strand the focus was on the application of theoretical models in computational linguistics to real data using programming sripts and other — typically command-line driven — tools.
The first three days (taught by Folgert Karsdorp (Meertens Institute) & Mike Kestemont (University of Antwerp)) targeted an audience of researchers in the Humanities who wish to apply digital methods in their own future research practice but who, so far, have had little or no significant initiation to the use of digital methods. The program focuses on text analysis using the popular scripting language Python, which is rapidly becoming the standard programming language for computational text analysis in Digital Humanities. Many fields in the Humanities have an important textual component but programming courses, unfortunately, remain rare in the traditional curricula in higher education throughout Europe. The interactive course format (a so-called IPython “Notebook”) is inspired by a number of previous workshops and is explicitly designed to get the participants’ feet wet from the very first sessions onwards. The materials of this course are also freely available online.