Theory as a category?

Hi everyone!

Shall we consider making Theory a separate category – alongside Data, Modeling, and others?

Suggested brief description of this category:
Theoretical foundations of computational humanities: basic premises, hypotheses, large-scale questions about cultural change.

Why should people use this category? What is it for?
The Theory category could contain questions like the one about stochasticity/drift by @folgert , as well as many others on cultural evolution (biases, complexity, innovation…), broader implications of computation in culture, etc. Also, it could become a place for sharing recent theoretical findings/papers. My opinion is that theory must become a crucial part of computational humanities. It is very important for formulating hypotheses and for sensible operationalization of these hypotheses.

How exactly is this different than the other categories we already have?
So far most categories seem to be focused on research methods. The Theory category would focus on hypotheses, big questions, and basic premises of computational humanities. The theoretical foundations, so to say.

What should topics in this category generally contain?

  • Cultural evolution: drift, transmission biases, cultural complexity, cultural innovation.
  • Basic assumptions of computational humanities. Say, should they be hypothesis-driven or exploratory? How should hypotheses be operationalized?
  • Theories and concepts from other disciplines (linguistics, anthropology, complex systems theory, etc.) that can be useful for comput. humanities.
  • Sharing the papers on novel theoretical findings relevant to comp. humanities.

Do we need this category? Can we merge with another category, or subcategory?
The most similar category, at the moment, is Modeling, but modeling is a more technical side of theorizing: not every theory is described with a mathematical model (though, ideally, it should).


Excellent idea. I was just thinking about a meta topic to collect suggestions for categories, and this is definitely one that should be on the list. I’m on it!


Agree. I think it’s important to separate theory from modeling, also because an important part in applying computational methods to humanities questions involves translating/developing theories. This step includes make explicit, formalizing theories from the humanities, which can lead to the formulation of hypothesis, but also to developing and discovering theories about culture/social behavior. I think that before we can model, we need to pair these theoretical exercises and translate them into something that can be modeled. Especially, the translation of theories is a step that would benefit from having a separate theory category.


Perfect. All that remains is a category description. Could you, @oleg_sobchuk or @melvin.wevers draft something? Just a couple a sentences describing what the category is for is enough.

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I have edited the first post according to your suggested questions. Plus, added a short description of the category. Check if it looks okay.


This is a perfect starting point. We can use that as input for a category and then adjust it if needed down the road.


OK. I’ve updated the category description. Thanks!

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