Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Feb. 18, 2023, 6:23 a.m. Humanist 36.399 - events cfp: operationalization of text studies (Cologne)

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 399.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2023-02-17 08:22:20+00:00
        From: Nils Reiter <>
        Subject: CfP: Measuring Meanings | Computing Concepts. Practices of Operationalization and their Implications for Text Studies

Measuring Meanings | Computing Concepts:
Practices of Operationalization and their Implications for Text Studies

All details can also be found here:

Since the work of physicist Percy Bridgman (1927, 5), ›operationalization‹ is
used to refer to the practice of determining or measuring concepts by means of a
»set of operations«. In Bridgman’s strong variant of operationalization, he
regarded the meaning of concepts as synonymous with the operations used to
measure it. In Bridgman’s view, such operational definitions are fundamental to
all research in physics. The concept of length, for instance, would thus be
defined by the operations which are necessary for measuring the length of a
physical object. Early on, this position was intensively discussed (cf. Frank
1956), and also criticized for that, in extreme cases, each new measurement
method of a concept is equivalent to a new operational definition: »it becomes a
tautology that any measurement operation is the correct one for the concept
associated with it« (Chang, Cartwright 2008, 367).

Text-oriented DH projects seem to align with a weaker variant of
operationalization in that their activities are structured by clearly delineable
sub-steps (cf. Pichler, Reiter 2022; Krautter 2022). Thereby, operationalization
can both contribute to the definitional refining of (humanities’) concepts, and
facilitate opportunities for their empirical examination. The workshop aims to
address these questions from scientific, computational, and praxeological
perspectives, and thus attempts to provide an overview of the different
theoretical positions and practical approaches; in particular with regard to
operationalization in the field of digital humanities and digital text analysis.
We especially solicit contributions that develop their theoretical reflections
by means of concrete data. Please refrain from submitting textual analyses that
do not include a theoretical reflection on their operationalization practice.

Guiding questions include, but are not limited to:
• What is referred to as a concept in the text studying fields of the
humanities? What is the role of such concepts in theory building?
• What is the function of quantitative, formal or computational analysis in
terms of conceptualization in text studying fields?
• How does the practice of operationalization relate to traditional and current
approaches to conceptualization in philosophy, e.g., Carnapian explication and
conceptual engineering?
• What is the practice of operationalization in text studying fields of the
• How does operationalization interact with established machine learning
workflows? Which understanding of operationalization is inherent in these
• How does operationalizing engage with interpreting?
• How do we compare and evaluate operationalizations?
• How can we conceptualize the ›agent‹ that conducts the measurement (e.g.,
computer vs. human)? What impact do different agents and their capacities have
on our understanding of operationalization?
• What are the differences between expressing measurement rules in natural (such
as annotation guidelines) and formal language in relation to the operationalized
concepts? How do these as well as their guiding background assumptions affect
our understanding of operationalization?
• Does the advent of large language models (such as BERT and GPT) change our
notion of operationalization -- and if so, how?

We invite the submission of abstracts (1 page) in English on any of the above
mentioned or closely related topics. Abstracts should be submitted in PDF format
to; they do not need to be anonymised (non-
Prior to the workshop, the accepted abstracts must be extended into full papers
(5000–6000 words), which will be circulated before the workshop. At the
workshop, each paper is presented briefly, followed by an in-depth-discussion.
The revised full papers will be published. Further details on publication will
follow after acceptance. For the specific deadlines, please see the timeline

Abstract submission deadline: May 1st, 2023
Notification: May 15 2023
Paper submission: August 31 2023
Workshop: September 25/26 2023


Please contact Axel Pichler ( for further

Axel Pichler, University of Stuttgart
Benjamin Krautter, University of Cologne
Nils Reiter, University of Cologne

Bridgman, Percy W.: The Logic of Modern Physics. New York 1927.
Chang, Hasok / Cartwright, Nancy: Measurement. In: The Routledge Companion to
Philosophy of Science, ed. by Stathis Psillos / Martin Curd. Abingdon, New York
2008, 367–375.
Krautter, Benjamin: Die Operationalisierung als interdisziplinäre Schnittstelle
der Digital Humanities. In: Scientia Poetica 26 (2022), S. 215–244.
Pichler, Axel / Reiter, Nils: From Concepts to Texts and Back:
Operationalization as a Core Activity of Digital Humanities. In: Journal of
Cultural Analytics 7.4 (2022),
Frank, Philipp G. (eds.): The Validation of Scientific Theories. Boston 1956.

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