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Clodomir Santana about "The Jesuits in the Age of the Algorithm" on Cultural Workshop 2024, University of Cambridge

"The Jesuits in the Age of the Algorithm. An Introduction to Sentiment Analysis and Thematic Modelling of Overseas Colonial Correspondence (1642-1822)"

This presentation aims to bridge the gap between digital tools and cultural history, using the rich network of Jesuit-related correspondence from the Historical Overseas Archives in Lisbon (1642 to 1822), across the colonial space between Brazil, West Africa and the capital of the Portuguese Empire - Lisbon.

With this, we want to discuss the potential of digital approaches such as sentiment analysis and topic modelling in the context of historical knowledge. However, several questions arise, one of the most important being the reliability of the model for historical research and its adaptability to the sources. Our main concerns are therefore:

• How reliable are digital methods and algorithms for historical research, especially when applied to texts from different geographical and temporal contexts?

• How can we reconcile the semi-automated analysis of historical documents with the need for more nuanced interpretation and understanding?

• What are the ethical considerations associated with the use of digital tools for historical research, particularly with regard to issues such as archiving and algorithmic bias?

Our data covers a broad spectrum of administrative, socio-political, economic, cultural and religious topics in the field of colonial history and is a rich source of information for our analyses (Bloch, Vasques, Bojanowski 2022). The techniques discussed in our presentation can be applied to any relevant study, topic or social group identified in our dataset. The case study on the Jesuits is just one of several research directions we can explore. In summary, this research promotes dialogue between digital advances and historical scholarship by using digital tools to gain new insights into cultural history. And finally, we want to encourage young researchers to explore the possibilities of digital tools for historical research and to use them without fear.

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