Course Organisation


2nd Term 2016-2017.
Tuesdays, from 13:00 to 16:00
Lipsius Building, 126B or 126A


Dr. Peter Verhaar


The development of the digital textual medium has enabled agencies, companies and institutions to create, gather and store unprecedented amounts of textual data and metadata (data on data). Just as microscopes and telescopes widen the bandwidth of human perception, computer-aided forms of reading allow us to see things in these massive amounts of textual data that we could not see before because they were not ‘in the human bandwidth’. Thus computers affect what we may know and regard as knowledge. The availability of metadata fundamentally reshapes methodologies for classifying, searching and accessing texts and therefore leads to new systems for information retrieval. Moreover, metadata aggregation allows for completely new evaluative perspectives on the text-related industries and institutions. New types of text and related data available also significantly change (humanities) research methodologies and dissemination practices. Building on the first-semester introduction to the basics of digital text technologies, this course will provide a firm grounding in data processing technologies. From aggregating,via systemising, to analysing and visualising (textual) data by governments, knowledge institutions, and the textual trade, the course will present advanced data processing techniques using various digital tools.

Course objectives

  • Students learn the history, policies, principles and practice connected to digital text and data processing systems, especially in the text-based scholarly, institutional and commercial professions
  • Students will receive hands-on experience in (textual) data processing techniques, within a framework of the ongoing evolution of digital technology
  • Students will become able to identify a subject and topic for research, to plan and carry out the necessary research and to prepare a written account, also in preparation for writing an MA thesis within this field

Attendance rules

Participation in all sessions of this course is compulsory. Upon prior consultation, the lecturer can permit absence at one session for compelling reasons. Students who are absent twice will be excluded from further participation and will have to re-take the course.


All the texts that need to be read for this course can be accessed online. The reading is not necessarily evenly distributed over the weeks. It is the students’ own responsibility to plan the compulsory reading, but it is strongly recommended that reading is done as closely as possible to the week it has been set for. Leaving it all to the end is decidedly not a good idea, both in view of the drop in success rate which usually attends such procrastinatory behaviour and, more importantly, because it impedes full participation in class discussions. Please come to classes properly prepared. The Further Reading section is intended for the curious of mind.


Assignments are graded towards the course mark. Unless specified otherwise, assignments are to be sent in by e-mail. Details of the assignments will be provided on separate handouts or on web pages, to be accessed through the course homepage (this page). If an assignment is not handed in on time, you will need to explain the circumstances to the course co-ordinator or to the director of studies at least one day before the assignment is due. If assignments are submitted after the specified deadline without a valid reason, 0.5 will be deducted from your score for each day that the assignment is overdue.


  • The final grade for this course will be determined by the course essay, which consists of (1) a description of the results of an individual research project and (2) a critical reflection on the techniques which are discussed during the course.
  • Next to this, five “coding challenges” need to be submitted during the course, and all of these need to be marked as sufficient.