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Re-thinking Visualization as Part of Humanities Research

PhD position


Digitization has enabled humanities researchers to make use of computational methods for analyzing and interpreting document collections at a large scale. It is widely acknowledged by now that visualization has a role to play in these endeavors. However, more critical voices highlight that visualization, as a method predominantly designed by and for the sciences, may be at odds with humanities research approaches that focus on qualitative methodologies where knowledge is considered as situated and constructed [1]. How can visualization complement methodologies that are grounded in qualitative research and theory? Previous research has highlighted the potential of visualization to act as a mediator between disciplines [2] in that it can be considered as visual manifestation of certain perspectives which, in turn, can facilitate discussions between researchers from different disciplines. This perspective parts from the notion of visualization as a tool that can output clear answers. Instead, it embraces the idea of visualization as a dynamic process that provokes reflection, encourages discussion and that can mediate between disciplines by making visible different points of views.


This PhD project will expand investigate in-depth the role of visualization in humanities research with the goal inform new ways of thinking about visualization as a method and research in the digital humanities. A potential starting point could be a set of qualitative studies to explore how existing visualization tools are currently being used as part of humanities research (e.g., with a particular focus on literary studies) to identify current practices and potential for innovation. This could be followed by design explorations and prototyping that will investigate how to complement traditional practices in humanities research through visualization.

Supervisory Team

The main supervisor on this project will be Dr Uta Hinrichs who is an expert in data visualization and human computer interaction. Her research specifically focuses on research methods at the intersection of visualization and (digital) humanities.

Since this is an interdisciplinary research project, additional supervisor(s) from the humanities will be invited to join the supervisory team once a PhD candidate is selected.


How to Apply

The start date of this position is flexible. If you are are interested in this position and would like to get more information about the project and funding opportunities, please get in touch with Dr Uta Hinrichs via email: uhinrich[at]edi.ac.uk. You can also directly apply here.


[1] Johanna Drucker. Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display. Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ), 5(1), 2011.

[2] Uta Hinrichs, Stefania Forlini, Bridget Moynihan. In Defense of Sandcastles: Research Thinking through Visualization in Digital Humanities. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (DSH), Volume 34, Issue Supplement_1, December 2019, Pages i80–i99 (published Oct. 2018). DOI: 10.1093/llc/fqy051