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Introduction to the Open Peer-Reviewed Section on DR2 Methodology Examples

Guido Bonino, Paolo Tripodi and Enrico Pasini

Abstract

In the last twenty years Franco Moretti’s ‘distant reading’ approach has provided a fresh under standing of literature and its historical development not by studying in detail a few particular texts (as in the so-called ‘close reading’), but rather by aggregating and analyzing large amounts of information. As members of the DR2 research group at the University of Turin—DR2: Distant Reading and Data-Driven Research in the History of Philosophy—we share the conviction that it is time to apply such methods to the history of thought. This kind of methodological innovation can be of interest for scholars working on different historical periods (ancient, medieval, modern, contem porary) and from the perspective of different fields (history of philosophy, history of science, hist ory of ideas and intellectual history, sociology of knowledge, and so forth). A founding moment for this approach was the first DR2 Conference, held in Turin in 2017. Some of the participants to the Conference agreed to publish edited versions of the conference talks in the form of working papers, that would be subjected to an open peer review process. We present here the results.

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1In the last twenty years Franco Moretti’s ‘distant reading’ approach has provided a fresh under­standing of literature and its historical development not by studying in detail a few particular texts (as in the so-called ‘close reading’), but rather by aggregating and analyzing large amounts of information (Moretti 2013). The central role of data in this approach is not determined only by their quantity. It is also impor­tant to look for different kinds of data, not investigated before, drawn from a variety of sources. In this sense this approach may be regarded as a form of data-driven research in the humanities. As members of the DR2 research group at the University of Turin—DR2: Distant Reading and Data-Driven Research in the History of Philosophy—we share the conviction that it is time to apply quantitative methods to the history of thought, and in particular to the history of philosophy, very broadly conceived. It seems to us that this kind of methodological innovation can be of interest for scholars working on different historical periods (ancient, medieval, modern, contem­porary) and from the perspective of different fields (history of philosophy, history of science, his­tory of ideas and intellectual history, sociology of knowledge, and so forth).

2A founding moment for this approach was the first DR2 Conference, held at the University of Turin on January 16-18 2017. At the conference, after Moretti’s opening talk on “Pattern and interpretation” (later published as Moretti 2017), several scholars from different countries met together for the first time to discuss a variety of topics and methods: from Justin Smith (Paris Diderot) to Gino Roncaglia (Viterbo), from Arianna Betti (Amsterdam) to Peter de Bolla (Cambridge), to mention but a few of them.

3Since then the DR2 research programme has developed in several directions. First of all, the research group has been enlarged by new members and collaborators. A series of DR2 Colloquia was inaugurated, and a second DR2 Conference was held in Turin on February 12-13 2019. Among the invited speakers were Franco Moretti (Stanford and Berlin), Arianna Betti and Pauline van Wierst (Amsterdam), Glenn Roe (Paris Sorbonne), Nakul Krishna (Cambridge), Paolo D’Angelo (Roma Tre), Giulia Venturi (CNR Pisa), and Nicola Guarino (CNR Trento). The conference focused on two main issues: style in philosophy and corpora building. Furthermore, some courses on quantitative methods in the history of philosophy have been scheduled at the University of Turin—such as a course held by visiting professor Arianna Betti on the computational history of ideas and a special course at the Scuola di Studi Superiori “Ferdinando Rossi” (both in the academic year 2019-2020)—and the first M.A. dissertations based on these methods were defended. Bonino, Pulizzotto & Tripodi 2018, Buonomo & Petrovich 2018, Petrovich 2018a and 2018b, Bonino & Tripodi 2019, and Carducci et al. 2019 are some examples of the group’s results; moreover, the first issue of the series “DR2 Working Papers” is going to be published. Last, but not least, a web page and a blog were opened, with the aim of raising attention on this approach, of communicating results and reflecting on tools and techniques, and of providing a space for discussion of our research work (https://dr2blog.hcommons.org).

4Some of the participants to the first DR2 Conference agreed to publish edited versions of the conference talks in the form of working papers, that would be subjected to an open peer review process. The trial—as the editors of Nature said about their own run at open peer review: “We use the word ‘trial’ rather than ‘experiment’ advisedly” (‘Peer review on trial’ 2006)—has been an interesting chance to stretch the limits of peer review. Nature’s trial quite failed and the practice has been abandoned by them, but it has been taken up by others, and sometimes with perceived success: “What failed for Nature in 2006, has been very succesful for JMIR since 2009: inviting the broader scientific community to comment on current submissions before they are formally published” (Eysenbach 2015). This seems very inviting indeed: nonetheless, we must admit that we were not completely pleased with the outcome of our effort.

5There is a lot of alternative interpretations of ‘open peer review’ or ‘open review’: a systematic review of the available definitions (more than one hundred) has been provided two years ago by Tony Ross-Hellauer (2017). For our trial, we went for collaborative, community-driven open peer review. Thus we opened a second DR2 blog for the review process (https://dr2openpeerreview.hcommons.org), where anyone could comment the papers by the paragraph (thanks to the excellent CommentPress plugin, http://futureofthebook.org/​commentpress/​) and we put to work the DR2 community that had gathered around the various activities of the research group. The submitted texts and the comments can still be scrutinized by interested readers.

6On the one hand, the quality of the reviewing was quite satisfying, and we consider the result of the reviewing process utterly adequate for validating the final publications. On the other hand, we found ourselves—at times—in a situation not dissimilar from that of illustrious predecessors: “The trial was well-publicized ahead of time by Nature, but comments were rather scarce” (Shema 2014). One member of the DR2 group spent part of his scholarship gathering and galvanizing reviewers, with fairly good results: yet, in our experience, this aspect—participation—was, is, and is likely to remain the crucial shortcoming of this kind of open peer review process.

7We’d like to warmly thank the Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas for accepting to include the open peer-reviewed papers in the section devoted to methodological Notes: we are grateful for the attention that the Journal has been recently paying to distant-reading, quantitative, data-based methodologies in the history of ideas. We also heartily thank the authors and the reviewers who participated in the ‘trial’, and hope that the readers will enjoy the result.

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Bibliography

Bonino, G., Pulizzotto, D. and Tripodi, P. (2018). Exploring the history of American philosophy in a computer-assisted framework. In Iezzi D. F., Celardo L., & Misuraca M. (eds.), JADT ’18. Proceedings of the 14 International Conference on Statistical Analysis of Textual Data (1, pp. 134-141). Roma: UniversItalia.

Bonino, G. and Tripodi, P. (2019). Academic success in America. Wittgenstein and analytic philosophy. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 359-392. http://doi.org/10.1080/09608788.2019.1618789

Buonomo, V. & Petrovich, E. (2018). Reconstructing late analytic philosophy. A quantitative approach. Philosophical Inquiries, 6(1), 149-180.

Carducci, G., Leontino, M., Radicioni, D., Bonino, G., Pasini, E. & Tripodi, P. (2019). Semantically aware text categorisation for metadata annotation, in Communications in Computer and Information Science, Springer Verlag, pp. 315-330.

Eysenbach, G. (2015). Peer-Review 2.0: Welcome to JMIR Preprints, an open peer-review marketplace for scholarly manuscripts. JMIR Prepr, 1(1):e1. http://doi.org/10.2196/preprints.5337

Moretti, F. (2013). Distant Reading, London & New York: Verso.

 Moretti, F. (2017). Patterns and interpretation. Pamphlets of the Stanford Literary Lab, 15, https://litlab.stanford.edu/LiteraryLabPamphlet15.pdf.

Peer review on trial. (2006). Nature, 441(7094), 668-668. http://doi.org/10.1038/441668a

Petrovich, E. (2018a). Forms, patterns, structures: Citation analysis and the history of analytic philosophy. Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas, 7(13), 1-21. http://doi.org/10.13135/2280-8574/2843

Petrovich, E. (2018b). Accumulation of knowledge in para-scientific areas. The case of analytic philosophy. Scientometrics, 116(2), 1123-1151.

Ross-Hellauer, T. (2017). What is open peer review? A systematic review. F1000Research, 6, 588. http://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.11369.2

Shema, H. (2014). An Introduction to open peer review. In Information Culture, Scientific American (June 28). https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/information-culture/an-introduction-to-open-peer-review/

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References

Electronic reference

Guido Bonino, Paolo Tripodi and Enrico Pasini, « Introduction to the Open Peer-Reviewed Section on DR2 Methodology Examples »Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas [Online], 16 | 2019, Online since 01 March 2020, connection on 14 August 2020. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/jihi/296

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About the authors

Guido Bonino

University of Turin, guido.bonino@unito.it

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Paolo Tripodi

University of Turin, paolo.tripodi@unito.it

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Enrico Pasini

University of Turin, enrico.pasini@unito.it

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Copyright

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License

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