Venue: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Fabianinkatu 24 A, Seminar Room 136, Ground Floor.

Dates: Monday to Tuesday 7–8 December 2015.

Registration for this event is required but free of charge. Please register online. The deadline to register is November 30.

Organizers: Mikko Tolonen, Kaius Sinnemäki and Anna Kajander

The symposium is funded by the Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, and the research community Building and Use of Language Technology (BAULT) at the University of Helsinki. The premises and the website are provided by the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Their support is gratefully acknowledged.

Follow: #HelsinkiDH

This event continues our recent efforts to promote Digital Humanities research at the University of Helsinki and more broadly in Finland. For our earlier events see Big Data Approaches to Intellectual and Linguistic History, Helsinki Digital Humanities Day, and Re-thinking the Digital Humanities – Critical, Expanded, Material.


Monday, December 7

10.00-10.15 Opening of the symposium, Mikko Tolonen & Kaius Sinnemäki (University of Helsinki)

10.15-11.15     Clifford Siskin (New York U) and Peter de Bolla (U of Cambridge): The History of Concepts as Complex Systems

11.15-12.00     Michael Gavin (U of South Carolina): Vector semantics as a theory of concepts

12.00-13.30     Lunch Break

13.30-14.15     Neil Foxlee (U of Central Lancashire): From analogue to digital: conventional and computational approaches to studying conceptual change

14.15-15.00     Timo Honkela (U of Helsinki): From computation modeling of concepts to conceptual change

15.30-16.15     Joris van Einatten (U of Utrecht): Tracing conceptual change in messy data

16.15-17.00     Silke Schwandt (U of Bielefeld): How to teach Latin to your computer: A Case of Digital Humanities and Medieval History

Tuesday, December 8

09.00-09.45     Kimmo Kettunen (National Library of Finland): Challenges in OCR quality of digitized newspapers – is there a way from data quantity to quality (re)search?

09:45-10:30     Asko Nivala (U of Turku): From the Enlightenment to Romanticism. Topic Modeling the Changes of Aesthetic Discourse in Germany

11.00-11.45     Dirk Geeraerts (U of Leuven): Quantitative corpus onomasiology

11.45-12.30     Susan Fitzmaurice (U of Sheffield): Linguistic DNA: Modelling concepts and semantic change in English 1500-1800

12.30-13.45     Lunch Break

13.45-14.30     Sinai Rusinek (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute): Meaning and un-understanding: the digital turn in conceptual history

14.30-15.15     Pasi Ihalainen (U of Jyväskylä): Tracing Transnational Conceptual Change in the Context of the Late 1910s: On Conventional and Digitized Sources and Methodology

15.45-16.30     Marius Warholm Haugen (Norwegian U of Science and Technology, Trondheim): Tracing Travel in the Periodical Press (1780-1820), Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gallica

16.30-17.15     Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen and Katariina Parhi (U of Oulu): Confusing Concepts: Psychopathy and philosophical commitments

17.15-17.45     Closing of the symposium

Abstracts are available here.

Recommended reading: We have opened a list of recommended readings on Digital Humanities and Conceptual Change. The list can be accessed and edited by anyone, so feel free to add your favorite references to the list.

Live-stream: All presentations will be streamed online. Please go to, choose “Tutkijakollegium” and use the password tutiku to follow the presentations.

The intention of the symposium is to bring together researchers from digital and analog humanities who study conceptual change. One area of great but underused potential in such research is the use of digitized historical data, that is, data that was not born digital but has been digitized over the years. This data comes with its challenges, though, related particularly to OCR and variation in spelling. Our purpose is to convene together historians, linguists and data scientists to discuss concrete digital humanities case studies from different projects that have focused on conceptual change and that have addressed these difficulties in different ways. While the use of digital data and computational methods has been rapidly increasing in the humanities, often the focus is still on the possibilities that digitalization offers rather than on the concrete outcomes already achieved. We intend to address this issue by focusing especially on concrete case studies and outcomes rather than on future possibilities.

Central questions of the meeting are:

  • What can we learn about conceptual change when using digital data and methods?
  • How do we recognize conceptual change in digital data?
  • How conceptual change should be studied with big digitized historical data?

The symposium provides a forum for researchers to discuss these questions and exchange knowledge on how conceptual change has been studied and should be studied in the rapidly changing research environment involving humanists, social scientists and data analysts.

In addition to the symposium we are involved in organizing a related event called Digital History in Finland on Wednesday 9 December 2015. It focuses on advancing historical practice by applying computational methods to various types of historical source materials and data in the Finnish context. The event is organized by the Digital History in Finland Network (#DigiHistFi).


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