Distant Reading and the Problem of Operationalization

Goldilockean Considerations

  • Guido Bonino Università di Torino
  • Paolo Tripodi Università di Torino
Parole chiave: Distant reading, Operationalization, Verifiability, Goldilocks principle, History of ideas


The paper focuses on the role of operationalization (i.e., the building of models and the setting down of rules of annotation) in quantitative research in the humanities, and especially in the history of ideas. On the one hand, the presence of fully explicit annotation rules and fully operationalized concepts allows one to formulate claims that are clearly verifiable, or falsifiable, or in any case testable. On the other hand, full operationalization seems to have some controversial aspects: is it practically feasible? Is verifiability what we always want to achieve in the humanities? Are operationalized concepts semantically “well-anchored”?


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