About this program

Welcome to the website of the Translantis research program. The full name of the program is “Digital Humanities Approaches to Reference Cultures: The Emergence of the United States in Public Discourse in the Netherlands, 1890-1990.” The program uses digital humanities tools to analyze how the United States has served as a cultural model for the Netherlands in the long twentieth century. Cultural historians, information scientists, and text-mining experts at Utrecht University, the University of Amsterdam and the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, in The Hague, will use advanced text mining technologies to address this question.

Reference cultures

USA posThe term “reference culture” is used to describe the dominant role of some cultures in the international exchange of ideas, products and practices. Reference cultures serve as a model that can be imitated, adapted or rejected. Digital technologies such as text mining allows the Translantis program to analyze the role of the United States as a reference culture in Dutch debates about social change and collective identities.

The specific historical dynamics of reference cultures have never been systematically analyzed and hence are not fully understood. This program explores the fundamental concept of reference cultures by asking three related questions.

  1. How were ideas, products and practices associated with the United States valued in Dutch public discourse between 1890 and 1990?
  2. How can e-tools be used to map trends and changes in relation to the economic power, cultural acceptance, and scientific and technological impact of the United States as a reference culture?
  3. How does public discourse reflect and influence the emergence and impact of reference cultures?

 Text mining in historical newspapers

screenshotwahsporigineletekstwildewestenrond1900Culturally conditioned images of trans-national models are typically established and negotiated in public discourse over a long period of time. The availability of a large digital data collection in the National Library of the Netherlands (KB) enables us to study long-term developments and transformations in these national discourses in a systematic, longitudinal, and quantifiable way for the first time by using innovative text-mining tools. The resulting data sets can be paired with economic and social trends, and compared with qualitative methodology.

The project will use the text mining tool Texcavator that is based on the open-source software infrastructure xTAS, developed by the Intelligent Systems Lab of the University of Amsterdam (ISLA).


Project applicants

  • prof. dr. Joris van Eijnatten (Utrecht University, Cultural History – principal applicant)
  • prof. dr. Maarten de Rijke (University of Amsterdam, Computer Science, Intelligent Systems Lab)
  • prof. dr. Toine Pieters (Utrecht University, Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities – project leader)
  • dr. Jaap Verheul (Utrecht University, Cultural History/American Studies – project leader)
  • prof.dr. Charles van den Heuvel (University of Amsterdam, Huygens ING, History of Science)


Translantis is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) under the Horizon funding instrument, which focuses on innovation within the humanities and encourages research in wide-ranging, coherent programs that have the potential to determine the research agendas for future humanities research. The program started January 1, 2013 and will run for five years. This program has created positions for 3 postdocs (2 UU, 1 UvA,) and 4 Ph.D. students (3 UU, 1 UvA).


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