CFP: Computational Humanities

Jessica Marie Johnson, David Mimno, and Lauren Tilton, Editors

This deadline has passed and abstracts are no longer being accepted

Part of the Debates in the Digital Humanities Series
A book series from the University of Minnesota Press
Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein, Series Editors

Debates in the Digital Humanities are animated by questions about which practices, modes of inquiry, and ways of knowing should be acknowledged and engaged with. One area that continues to elicit equal measures of excitement and anxiety is work that is labeled as quantitative or as computational analysis. While text analysis has been the most prominent example, recent advances in technologies for images and sound have expanded computational approaches to other cultural forms. New forms of data from listservs and code repositories to tweets and other social media content have only enlivened debates about what counts as digital humanities scholarship, what kind of knowledge computational approaches can produce, who should be engaged in data inquiry, and what are its stakes. Theorizing the role of computation in humanities, it seems, is as much about power, prestige, and precarity as it is about p-values, and this volume aims to put all of these issues in conversation. Acknowledging the need for a space for reflexive and specialized debates about computation in DH, Debates in the Digital Humanities: Computational Humanities invites contributions that engage with computational and technical issues as well as about the role of computation itself. The volume is guided by, but not limited to, the following topics and questions:

Objects of study: What are the reasons that we apply computational methods to pursue humanistic inquiry, and to what extent is computation able to support those goals? To what degree are certain forms and kinds of humanistic inquiry more amenable to computational approaches? How important is it to develop computational methods specific to the humanities? How does the humanities challenge computational methods--in either conception or application? What do we do about those challenges? How do academic institutions, community networks, and everyday people influence or impact our objects of study?

Methods: How, if at all, does computation add to our ability to make humanistic claims about art, life, politics, and culture? Is there an ideal synthesis between computational and non-computational methods, and if so, what should be the balance? If not, where are the fissures between computation and non-computational methods? If we do use computation to inform our scholarship, to what degree should the methods be visible, and if so, how? Are there computational methods that have not been seen as computation in the past? What is the history of computation and how does it intersect with, critique, or reject the humanities? How does computation intersect with, reject, or critique issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, and more? Where should computation go next? What are computation futures?

Epistemology: What processes make a conclusion acceptable? What counts as evidence? What counts as data? Who is doing the counting? Is there a balance between observation and explanation? To what extent do scholars need to understand the methods and tools that they are using to create knowledge? To what extent do scholars need to understand power dynamics underlying the methods and tools they are using to create knowledge? Who is computation for? Is computation an art? A politic? A community?

Intelligibility: Who needs to understand the models that are being applied, and how well? How do we train for and implement computational work? There is a perceived binary between the sciences' focus on reproducible, interchangeable experiments and the humanities' focus on unique, particular, interpretive discourse. Does computation shift or problematize this binary? What are the stakes of reproducibility? Does ephemerality have a place in computation?

Ethics: What responsibilities do we have when using computational methods? How can histories of computation inform our current practice? What potential harms could arise, and how can we eliminate or mitigate them? Can computation shift, rectify, repair harm?

Labor: How does the use of computation present a challenge to disciplinary and institutional patterns of labor, credit, and authorship? What are the strategies for making such work legible within and across disciplines and institutional frameworks? Who builds the hardware (from server farms to underwater cables) that makes computation possible? Who does the invisible labor that makes this work possible? What is invisible labor in a computational framework?

We invite contributions from across the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (regardless of rank, position, or institutional affiliation). We encourage debates that engage with multimodal materials such as images and time-based media. Both single-authorship and multiple-authorship are encouraged. We also welcome nominations of blog posts or other short-form pieces that address the above and related issues. Abstracts should be no more than 500 words, with additional bibliography. Each author should submit a short biography and two page CV. Contributions are due January 17th and should be submitted to

The Debates in the Digital Humanities editorial team will review all abstracts, and by January 24th, 2020 authors of selected abstracts will be invited to submit full essays.. The team will consult with the authors of selected abstracts about the length of their contributions, which will range from 2000 to 8000 words. As the series aims to introduce fully conceived scholarship on issues of pressing importance to the field, this volume will operate on a compressed production schedule. Contributors will be expected to participate in peer-to-peer and editorial review in May 2020; revised essays will be due in August 2020. The volume will be published in print and online in an open-access edition through the Manifold platform.

Have a question? Please email Jessica Marie Johnson (, David Mimno ( and Lauren Tilton (

Please submit abstracts to


Abstract Due: January 17th
Accepted Abstracts: January 31st
Essay Submission Deadline: May 15th
Peer-to-Peer Review: June 8 - June 22
Editor's Review of Peer Review/Summary Letter: July 6
Revision Due: August 28