Reading and Writing Technologies

How can we reinvent word processing?

How can we construct tools for authors?

How can large quantities of text be visualized and sorted?

How can users navigate within different text layers?

How can distant and close reading be combined?

How does autocompletion affect the way we write?

How do scholarly discourses get redefined by new technologies? 

Can we imagine new publishing formats of “higher dimensions” allowing to embed videos, visualization interfaces, simulation engines and source codes?




Studying Linguistic Changes on 200 Years of Newspapers

V. Buntinx; C. Bornet; F. Kaplan 

Large databases of scanned newspapers open new avenues for studying linguistic evolution. By studying a two-billion-word corpus corresponding to 200 years of newspapers, we compare several methods in order to assess how fast language is changing. After critically evaluating an initial set of methods for assessing textual distance between subsets corresponding to consecutive years, we introduce the notion of a lexical kernel, the set of unique words that maintain themselves over long periods of time. Focusing on linguistic stability instead of linguistic change allows building more robust measures to assess long term phenomena such as word resilience. By systematically comparing the results obtained on two subsets of the corpus corresponding to two independent newspapers, we argue that the results obtained are independent of the specificity of the chosen corpus, and are likely to be the results of more general linguistic phenomena.


Digital Humanities 2016, Kraków, Poland, July 11-16, 2016.


La simulation humaine : le roman-fleuve comme terrain d’expérimentation narrative

C. Bornet; D. de Roulet; F. Kaplan 

Dans cet article nous présentons la démarche et les premiers résultats d’une recherche participative menée conjointement par le laboratoire d’humanités digitales de l’EPFL (DHLAB) et l’écrivain suisse Daniel de Roulet. Dans cette étude, nous explorons les façons dont la lecture numérique est susceptible d’influencer la façon d’écrire et de réorganiser des récits complexes, de type roman-fleuve ou saga. Nous exposons également nos premières conclusions ainsi que les possibles travaux futures, dans ce domaine très vaste et peu étudié à ce jour.

Cahiers de Narratologie


num. 27.

DOI : 10.4000/narratologie.7042

Linguistic Capitalism and Algorithmic Mediation

F. Kaplan 

Google’s highly successful business model is based on selling words that appear in search queries. Organizing several million auctions per minute, the company has created the first global linguistic market and demonstrated that linguistic capitalism is a lucrative business domain, one in which billions of dollars can be realized per year. Google’s services need to be interpreted from this perspective. This article argues that linguistic capitalism implies not an economy of attention but an economy of expression. As several million users worldwide daily express themselves through one of Google’s interfaces, the texts they produce are systematically mediated by algorithms. In this new context, natural languages could progressively evolve to seamlessly integrate the linguistic biases of algorithms and the economical constraints of the global linguistic economy.



Vol. 127 , num. 1, p. 57-63.

Character networks in Les Confessions from Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Y. Rochat; F. Kaplan 


Texas Digital Humanities Conference, Houston, Texas, USA, April 10-12, 2014.


A social network analysis of Rousseau’s autobiography “Les Confessions”

Y. Rochat; F. Kaplan; C. Bornet 

We propose an analysis of the social network composed of the characters appearing in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiographic Les Confessions, with existence of edges based on co-occurrences. This work consists of twelve volumes, that span over fifty years of his life. Having a unique author allows us to consider the book as a coherent work, unlike some of the historical texts from which networks often get extracted, and to compare the evolution of patterns of characters through the books on a common basis. Les Confessions, considered as one of the first modern autobiographies, has the originality to let us compose a social network close to the reality, only with a bias introduced by the author, that has to be taken into account during the analysis. Hence, with this paper, we discuss the interpretation of networks based on the content of a book as social networks. We also, in a digital humanities approach, discuss the relevance of this object as an historical source and a narrative tool.

DH 2013 book of abstracts


Digital Humanities 2013, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, July 15-19, 2013.

Analyse de réseaux sur les Confessions de Rousseau

Y. Rochat; F. Kaplan 


Humanités délivrées, Lausanne, Switzerland, October 1-2, 2013.

Le cercle vertueux de l’annotation

F. Kaplan 

Annoter est bon pour la compréhension immédiate du lecteur. Lire des textes annotés permet de mieux les comprendre. Cette double pertinence de l’annotation, confirmée par l’expérience, peut expliquer son succès séculaire.

Le lecteur à l’oeuvre; Gollion, Suisse: Infolio, 2013. p. 57-68.


How books will become machines

F. Kaplan 

This article is an attempt to reframe the evolution of books into a larger evolutionary theory. A central concept of this theory is the notion of regulated representation. A regulated representation is governed by a set of production and usage rules.ur core hypothesis is that regulated representations get more regular over time. The general process of this regulating tendency is the transformation of a convention into a mechanism. The regulation usually proceeds in two consecutive steps, firstly mechanizing the representation production rules and secondly its conventional usages. Ultimately, through this process, regulated representations tend to become machines.

Lire demain : Des manuscrits antiques à l’ère digitale; Lausanne: PPUR, 2012. p. 27-44.

ISBN : 978-2880749583