This paper historicizes “rigour”, discipline” and “systematic” as inventions of a certain rational spirit of Enlightenment that was radicalized during the 19th century. These terms acquired temporary value in a transition during the 19th century when a culture of research was established within a modern episteme. Beginning in the 20th century, this development was perceived as problematic, triggering criticism from philosophy and the arts, and even within the sciences. “Discipline”, “rigour” and “systematic” have changed meanings over time, and recent contributions from Digital Humanities are promising for a renewed critical debate about rigour in research. Both digital humanities and quantitative research deal with big data sets aimed at providing a large-scale analysis. However, unlike most quantitative research, digital humanities explore uncertainties as their main focus. Attention to the human-machine collaboration has led to more expansive thinking in scientific research. Digital humanities go further by advancing a metaperspective that deals with the material hermeneutics of data accumulation itself.
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