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Digital hermeneutics: from interpreting with machines to interpretational machines

  • Alberto RomeleEmail author
  • Marta Severo
  • Paolo Furia
Original Article


Today, there is an emerging interest for the potential role of hermeneutics in reflecting on the practices related to digital technologies and their consequences. Nonetheless, such an interest has neither given rise to a unitary approach nor to a shared debate. The primary goal of this paper is to map and synthetize the different existing perspectives to pave the way for an open discussion on the topic. The article is developed in two steps. In the first section, the authors analyze digital hermeneutics “in theory” by confronting and systematizing the existing literature. In particular, they stress three main distinctions among the approaches: (1) between “methodological” and “ontological” digital hermeneutics; (2) between data- and text-oriented digital hermeneutics; and (3) between “quantitative” and “qualitative” credos in digital hermeneutics. In the second section, they consider digital hermeneutics “in action”, by critically analyzing the uses of digital data (notably tweets) for studying a classical object such as the political opinion. In the conclusion, we will pave the way to an ontological turn in digital hermeneutics. Most of this article is devoted to the methodological issue of interpreting with digital machines. The main task of an ontological digital hermeneutics would consist instead in wondering if it is legitimate, and eventually to which extent, to speak of digital technologies, or at least of some of them, as interpretational machines.


Hermeneutics Digital hermeneutics Political opinion Data Digital traces Methods Information Information technologies Interpretational machines 



Part of this work has been funded by the European Commission H2020 FETPROACT 2016-2017 program under grant 732942 (ODYCCEUS).


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© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lille Catholic University/University of PortoLilleFrance
  2. 2.Paris Nanterre UniversityParisFrance
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze dell’EducazioneUniversity of TurinTorinoItaly

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