Scopes and Computation

Under development.

One of the most frequent ways that Galileo enters conversations about digital humanities is through a comparison of the tools of computational analysis of big textual data to the telescope. At the second meeting of the National Humanities Center Digital Textual Studies Institute, led by Willard McCarty and Matt Jockers, part of the conversation turned towards the metaphor of the macroscope, inspired by a critique by Ryan Cordell. As a scholar of Galileo, and as a former student of molecular biology, I was inspired by Ryan’s provocation that the macroscope, as currently expressed, is an insufficient means for expressing our work as computational and digital text analysts. What follows is an outline of my thoughts, something that I am working into the format of an article as a response or reinforcement of what I hope will be part of the work that Ryan publishes in our collected volume from the NHC DTS meetings.

An art historical example will offer a visual way to evaluate the work of the micro-, macro-, and tele- scopes in intellectual inquiry. The questions are related to what we are asking each tool to do, what we are expected to do with our eye to the lens, and our awareness of the context in which we apply the scope.