It has become a tradition for the stylometric community to organize a small get-together whenever a DH conference takes place near one of the labs. In 2014 the crowd had its meeting in the Australian wilderness of Wollombi near Newcastle, and in 2016 they enjoyed the mountain seclusion of Żabnica near Kraków. This year we met in the heart of the urban jungle, at Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), invited by the Riddle of Literary Quality team and Karina van Dalen-Oskam.
The meeting gathered some of the experts in the field and newcomers both from affiliated Federation of Stylometry Labs and ones pursuing solo stylometric projects. The workshop served as a great opportunity to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting and as an occasion for community building. Over the course of three days (15-17 July) we discussed our projects in development, good practices in the field and making it more accessible to newcomers, juggled ideas and enjoyed each other’s company over lovely dinners.
In relation to recent replication debates, we discussed the need for registering experimental setups as well as the exact shape of data (e.g. which particular editions were used, and what changes, such as normalization, introduced). While we noted the need for specifying the experimental setup in detail in advance, it was also observed that in practice we cannot foresee all the problems on our way and may need to adapt the method in the process.
We also discussed technical problems with working on digitized texts, especially historical ones – dealing with issues related to versioning, accuracy of preserved copies and search for the version closest to original intended by the author, lack of proper descriptions of digitized files in some collections – and the need for separating the development of reliable methods from answering actual research questions with a particular dataset.
Our interest was also sparked by a few more literary problems: the distinctiveness of authorial voice across various media (literary vs non-literary text, literature reviews, speech, audiovisual data) and manner of creating (e.g. typing oneself or dictating). Introducing the dimension of reader reception of literary texts to the discussion, researchers from Amsterdam addressed differences between stylometrists and readers in their perception of ‘style’, as well as the topic of stylistic development over time as observed in genetic criticism projects.
by Joanna Byszuk and Andreas van Cranenburgh