Tracing Concepts & Their Varied Expressions 
 Will Interweave Authors, Texts & Scholars

Project by Robert W. Williams, Ph.D.,
Science, Bennett College.
Interpretivist Methods
Research Conference 2022,
Interpretivist Methods for Political Science
Virtual Community (WPSA).
on 26
• DRAFT Version Only •

The Long-Form Presentation  [TOC] 
Acknowledgments Many thanks to the organizers:
• Dr. Hannah Lebovits
• Dr. Guillermo Caballero
• Dr. Carolyn Holmes
The Presentation in Summary Form
  Researching W.E.B. Du Bois
• I have been researching W.E.B. Du Bois for a long time, studying his philosophy of social science, views on democracy and science, and since about 2010, his concept of the unknowable.
Du Bois's concept of the unknowable: Among the several types I have identified...
—The historical unknowable: some evidence has been lost to us and is unrecoverable.
—Directly unknowable: I can not known another person's experience as they do.
  My Changing Research Practices
• Until recently I have used close reading techniques to explore texts in sequential and reiterative ways.
Corpus creation: Over the last two years I have developed a corpus of a small subset of his writings, published and unpublished.
Regular expression searching via concordancer: I explore the corpus with concordancers and seek the themes and the thread of concepts via regular expressions (regexes)—​a search protocol typically employed by computer programmers.
  This conference allows me the opportunity to examine how my research methods influence my interpretations of Du Bois's ideas.
  I wish to learn from Du Bois and thus I attempt to approach his words as an expression of his voice(s), rather than to impose categories on him.
  Normative–Epistemological Justification:
• Regarding this goal, I have been motivated by the research and activism of a former student from my school, Bennett College, Dr. Robin Gray, who is now a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga and is First Nations. She seeks the repatriation of musical artifacts to various Pacific Coast First Nations communities.
• Dr. Gray argues that participation by members of those communities in the research process would have provided an ethical way to learn about those communities.
  My Scholarly Mediations:
My efforts to study Du Bois's own words still bear the scholarly mediations:
• who I am—my positionality as a White male researcher;
• my techniques and tools of research.
This tension creates an Interpretivist Dilemma.
  My presentation covers....
...various components of my research on Du Bois's concept of unknowable and discusses the scholarly mediations that each has on the research process. I will examine:
• the concept and how it is conveyed linguistically
• concordancers
• regular expressions
• research workflow
• I end with the effects of such scholarly mediations: my interpretations are tentative, but can be plausible if certain conditions obtain.
  Venniform box diagrams
  Preconditions for Researching Concepts
Preconditions for Researching Concepts
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-6
Description: Author writes the texts.
Scholarly Mediations: Scholars choose methods by which to study authors and their texts
  Scholars create the corpus
The Scholar Creates the Corpus
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-4
Research Actions: Creating a corpus requires:
• Selecting texts from among those written by the author being studied
— Representative sample?
— All texts of a particular type? [comprehensive within that genre?]
• Digitization; OCRing; Proofreading
• How to handle non-conventional aspects, typos, variant spellings, images; maps; tabular data, etc.?
Scholarly Mediations:
Scholars decisions as listed above influence what we can study in the corpus.
  The Concept in the Corpus & Other Texts (Possible locations)
Concept in the Corpus & Other Texts
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-4-5
Description: Possible boundaries of the concept I am studying.
Among the Author's texts the concept can appear at least once in a document—and thereby might be the impetus for the research project. But the concept may or may not be in the corpus [unless the particular document with the concept is part of the corpus].
Scholarly Mediations: I make working research assumptions that the
• concept is important;
• concept is distinctive from other concepts;
• concept can encompass the phenomena it supposedly references.
  Concept as Specific Word and Alternate Expressions
Concept as Word & Expressions
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-4-5.1-5.2
Description: Onomasiology [linguistics]
• Concept conveyed by a specific word: the "unknowable";
• Concept also conveyed by associated expressions [deriving from the author's definition and applications of the concept.]
Scholarly Mediations:
I as the scholar choose the associated expressions as onomasiological indicators of the concept as specific word.
  AntConc v3.5.9. Concordancer: Interface (KWIC View)
AntConc v3.5.9. Concordancer: Interface (KWIC View)
AntConc interface, v3.5.9.
Description: Computer program to explore a corpus or a single text
Corpus linguistics uses concordancers regularly. Many features allow for us to statistically measure aspects of a corpus
Scholarly Mediations: Visit the next item.
  KWIC View of Regex Search Results for
[AntConc v3.5.9.]
KWIC View of Regex Search Results for
AntConc KWIC-unknowa
Scholarly Mediations: We read the concordance lines in the Keyword In Context window.
• We examine the node word (the word sought) and the co-text surrounds the node word
• We do not read the overall flow of the node word within the document itself. For that, use File View.
• We disambiguate matches that are irrelevant to the concept.
  Regular Expressions (Regexes)
Description: Search protocols to match strings:




Regex {re-4} could match the following:
• "not know" / "not known"
• "not unknown"
• "never know" / "never known" / "never knew"
• and so forth.
Scholarly Mediations: Regexes match what we code them to find within the text(s) provided, not necessarily what we wanted to find for our research.
Regexes can be complex and we can err in coding them.
We must disambiguate the search results.
  Elements of a Workflow (Depicted Statically)
Elements of One Possible Workflow
Venniform diagram: All 6 boxes
• "LSW": "Located Specific Words" via the regexing.
• "LAE": "Located Associated Expressions".
• "IRR": "Irrelevant Results" disambiguated from the matches.
Scholarly Mediations: Previously discussed scholarly mediations are pertinent here.
  Influences of Scholarly Mediations
My interpretations of Du Bois with regard to the unknowable are not final, but tentative and plausible.
Tentative because...
• My positionality limits my scope.
• New primary sources might be recovered.
• The research process contributes to tentativity:
—Other theoretical justifications might be insightful, and
Other methods might be useful.
• The scholarly community in which I participate provides new information and/or new interpretations.
Plausible because I...
• base my claims on the textual evidence.
• provide coherent theoretical justifications.
• attend to historical and intertextual contexts.
• strive to rigorously apply the methods.
  In Closing
• I am thinking with multiple communities of scholars, whose insights and methods inform my research.
• I acknowledge that their contributions are innumerable, important, and interwoven throughout my scholarship.

• •   •••   • •

The Presentation as a Long-Form Paper

My Project

An Interpretivist Dilemma:  This conference gives me the opportunity to reflect on a dilemma that I have encountered over the years while conducting interpretive-oriented research.
How might I explore an author's ideas in ways that recognize the author's voice(s), but also recognize how, while conducting research, I am intervening in ways that mediate the research process and that thereby will influence what I can understand about the author?
In keeping with the presentation's title such mediations are interventions that interweave me into the various strands of our understanding of authors and their texts. This dilemma is not unique to me; many who approach the study of humans as makers of meaning also address it (e.g. Yanow 2006).
Since 2003 I have been studying the civil rights activist and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963). I created a website <www.webdubois.org> to provide links to online primary and secondary sources, as well as to present my own research. Until two years ago my primary interpretive technique has been close reading of individual texts. I'm interested in Du Bois's philosophy of social science, which when I took a grad school course in this in the 1980s, did not address the writings or thought of persons other than those of White European heritage.
Scholarly Mediations:  One obvious research mediation is my positionality as a white male studying an African-descended scholar. Any commonalities between us are mitigated by the fact that I have not and cannot experience the world and life as a Black man in a white supremacist world. My positionality will affect what books I emphasize; what questions I ask; how I understand what he is saying and the examples he is giving; or the urgency of "social death", as he called lynching (MEPF 1944: ¶72).
Because of the experiential limitations and the scholarly boundaries of my positionality I have been attempting to incorporate Du Bois's voice or voices in my research. An alumna of my school, Bennett College, as well as a student in one of my classes years ago, Robin R.R. Gray in her writings has encouraged me to ask: What knowledge might be gained if we include as participants of research those who created the objects of research (e.g., cultural productions)? Gray refers to the music of First Nations communities and the colonial expropriation and misinterpretations by white researchers. These concerns are more than of academic interest to her; they arise from her research/activism as a First Nations person (Gray 2019). The question she poses applies to my case and encourages me to focus on the words that Du Bois used in the works that he wrote.
Tools and Techniques:  In addition to my positionality, the tools and techniques that I use influence my research process and what I can understand about Du Bois. As a political theorist I often used the technique of close reading which would focus my attention on the concepts and arguments made, as well as guide me in the direction of the historical information I needed.
What I will be discussing today are tools, techniques and research materials from the fields of corpus linguistics and computer programming. I created a non-comprehensive, non-representative corpus of about 230 writings by Du Bois. This is a small fraction of his over 2000 published texts, which include books, reports, academic essays, newspaper articles, and so forth (Aptheker 1973; Partington 1979). [I will not detail his thousands of unpublished materials that various library archives contain.] Initially, my selections were based on my research interests in Du Bois's philosophy of social science, later I added a wider range of his texts, both in terms of their topics and their publication date.
I explore the corpus with a concordancer program through which I apply regular expression search techniques in order to locate I am studying. The theoretical justification for my searches is the linguistic approach that underpins thesaurus compilation: onomasiology. Initially, I was unaware of the name of this approach but I was very much aware of applying it in my writing practices. According to onomasiology, a concept is conveyed, not only by a specific word or phrase, but also be a range of possible expressions. I apply the onomasiological principle by exploring Du Bois's definitions and illustrations of the concept as a specific word. From such definitions and illustrations I will derive the expressions by which to trace the concept across his writings in those cases where he did not specify it by name.
The Presentation's Sections:  In this presentation I will next discuss my research on Du Bois.
• Following that I will cover the creation of a corpus.
• Then I will discuss concepts, including their specific and associated expressions.
• That will be followed by a discussion of the methods including software tools and search techniques
• Lastly, I will discuss the consequences of scholarly mediations as regards the finality or not of an interpretation
The Presentation's Conventions:  My presentation adheres to the following conventions:
• I provide in-text citations to Du Bois's works via an abbreviated title and year of publication (e.g., GBF 1924). The references list his works alphabetically by those abbreviated titles.
• I designate regular expressions via this format: 
Also, I number each discussed regex for easier reference.
• Formatting in the manner of 
 will indicate words (or their fragments) that are part of the research process, including regular expression searching.
In this presentation I crafted what could be called "Venniform box diagrams". Conventional Venn diagrams typically involve overlapping circles in order to depict the conjunction and disjunction of elements in a set. For my purposes, however, conventional Venn diagrams do not efficiently visualize the relationships among the elements: they are overly spacious in some regions of the diagram and often too cramped within other regions, including some intersecting ones. Accordingly, I have drawn Venniform box diagrams. Such diagrams are Venn-like because they can depict conjunction and disjunction, but with their rectilinear shapes they are more spacious when presenting intersecting regions and any attendant text labels.

My Research on W.E.B. Du Bois

The Unknowable:  I have studied Du Bois's concept of the unknowable for many years (Williams & Du Bois 2012). For Du Bois, the unknowable did not simply refer to an absence of knowledge about something. Elsewhere I have categorized the several types derived his writings (R.W. Williams 2016; 2017). Here I will mention only two basic kinds of the unknowable. The historically related unknowable occurs because evidence about people, places, and events was irrecoverably lost and unavailable. The directly unknowable involves our inability to know how others experience their own joys, sadness, fears, and hopes. We might be able to sympathize with another's condition or emotions because we are fellow humans and because of similar life experiences, but we cannot fully and accurately know what they are feeling.
Tracing the Concept of the Unknowable:  I was aware of the specific word "unknowable" in a very few texts (e.g., including his correspondence to others: LCH 1943; and LHA 1956). A widely recognized reference is found in the "Postscript" to Volume 1 of his Black Flame trilogy of novels, titled The Ordeal of Mansart:

The basis of this book is documented and verifiable fact, but the book is not history. On the contrary, I have used fiction to interpret those historical facts which otherwise would not be clear. Beyond this I have in some cases resorted to pure imagination in order to make unknown and unknowable history relate an ordered tale to the reader. [BFT1 1957]

But it was only after I recovered a short text by Du Bois unknown to scholars of his writings that I began to ponder the traces of the unknowable in other texts by him.
Here in this my neighbor stand things I do not know, experiences I have never felt, depths whose darkness is beyond me, and heights hidden by the clouds; or, perhaps, rather, differences in ways of thinking, and dreaming, and feeling which I guess at rather than know; strange twistings of soul that curve between the grotesque and the awful. [IASC 1905: ¶3]
The specific word "unknowable" was not present but to me the concept was being expressed.
Other Scholarly Work on the Concept of the Unknowable:  Other scholars of Du Bois have examined the concept particularly in a form of the specific word "unknowable" by referencing 1 or 2 texts (e.g., Balfour 2011; Bromell 2011 and 2013; Gooding-Williams 2009; C.E. Mitchell 1997; Monteiro 2008, 605-6). These other scholars have not typically explored the unknowable in terms of its associated (synonymous) expressions. As a consequence they have not studied the concept in its various textual forms.
My Research Results: A Very Brief Overview:  In brief, I will summarize a few of my findings that arose from my corpus based research. In the sections below I will talk about the components of corpus- based research.
• The specific word is found in 6 texts of my corpus.
My research has uncovered several associated expressions which convey the idea of the unknowable in principle. For example: "will never know"
"The exact number of slaves exported to America will never be known." (GBF 1924: p.54 = Ch.2)
• The word "only" can occur in relation to "know" and highlights how that particular individual's knowledge of personal experiences cannot be directly known by others. Here the directly unknowable experience does not involve a negating adverb, like "not" or "never" in conjunction with "know". This textual expression also occurs in a few cases with "own", and "alone" in relation to "know". For example, in Darkwater we read:
"But remember the foundation of the argument,—that in the last analysis only the sufferer knows his sufferings and that no state can be strong which excludes from its expressed wisdom the knowledge possessed by mothers, wives, and daughters." [DARK 1920: ¶27]
Generally speaking, seeking the word or its alternatives is time-consuming and yields several orders of magnitude more irrelevant matches via concordancing than useful ones,

Corpus Creation: Artifactual Artifact

Some Preconditions of Research:  Below, the Venniform diagram conveys three realms. The nested boxes of the author and the author's texts. Below those nested boxes is the scholar, while the possible methods to be selected is located in a stand-alone box.
Preconditions for Researching Concepts
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-6
Preconditions for researching concepts:
• The author composes the texts.
• The scholar will use methods for the project
The Corpus as an Artifactual Artifact:  The scholar compiles the corpus from the texts of the author. A corpus of digital texts involves the process of converting words in a document to something that is machine readable, a process holding that the things in the world can be reducibly represented by bits and bytes (Dobson 2019; McCarty 2005). Although a digital corpus is based on authorial evidence​—​the artifacts created by the author​—​it is itself also an artifact. So to speak, the corpus is an artifact of artifacts because the corpus contains the decisions made by scholars during the long research process (Davies. 2015; Reppen 2010; Tognini-Bonelli 2010).
The Venniform box diagram illustrates that the corpus arises from the actions of the scholar(s) to encompass a group of the author's texts for study purposes.
The Scholar Creates the Corpus
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-4
In order to create a corpus to study via a concordancer decisions have to be made when producing the plain text files. Such decisions include:
• Which characters do not render correctly in the file format being used? [For ASCII files this would mean removing certain characters that include accent marks single and double quotation marks, en and em dashes, etc.]
• What do we do with typos, misspellings and words that might not be conventional nowadays [such as non-conventional spellings]? We could designate them by means of "[sic]" or other editorial markings/ notations. I tend to editorially add conventional spelling: for example, "coöperate" with the umlaut [sic: cooperate]. This would enhance the possibility of locating those words via regular expressions.
• Do we include photographs, tabular data, line drawings and so forth?
Some Consequences of Scholarly Mediations in Corpus Creation:  As Figure 2 depicts, the scholarly mediations that create the corpus illustrate how research processes interweave the researcher with the author and texts. The decisions made by the scholar when compiling the corpus will mediate what we can potentially know about the concepts and texts, as well as what we can learn from the corpus. For example, once we have omitted photos, drawings, and tabular data, we then will not be able to look for that in the texts of the corpus. As a workaround I will retain the caption or description or otherwise editorially label the items that I have omitted.

Concept: Word and Expressions

The Concept as an Object of Research:  My choice of a concept as the object of research is based on my research goals. For my Du Boisian general research agenda I delineate three possible, and often interrelated, research goals:
• Research goal of authorial meaning: How did Du Bois convey meaning through concepts? That is to ask: How did he use the concept, define the concept, and apply the concept in order to understand and to act in the world? This typically will involve studying Du Bois's auto-intertextually (Eggert 1991; Hack 2016). [This framing of the research goal is different from a question like this: "What did Du Bois mean by a concept?" Such a question may elicit erroneously a study pursuing a single and/or original meaning to a concept (read Gibbons 1987: 3-4).]
• Research goal of authorial intertextuality: Did Du Bois allude directly or indirectly to others and their texts and ideas? How might those other texts help us to understand what Du Bois meant by a concept? [Read, for example, Grant (2000).]
• Research goal of intellectual significance: Insofar as any given idea of Du Bois relates to other authors in similar or dissimilar ways, can we consider that Du Bois is part of an intellectual tradition or traditions? [Read Hirsch (1967).]
In this presentation I am emphasizing how Du Bois conveyed meaning through the concept of the unknowable.
In the Venniform box diagram below, the Concept box is depicted as crossing the border between the Author's Texts box and the Corpus box so as to represent that the corpus may not contain all possible cases of the concept being studied.
Concept in the Corpus & Other Texts
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-4-5
Working Research Assumptions:  The concept is found in the texts and accordingly might be found in the corpus [hence, the concept box is depicted in Figure 3 as straddling the texts box and the corpus box.] In my particular case I knew that the concept of the unknowable as a specific word existed in a few documents within the corpus that I created because I had found it previously via close reading techniques. It is quite possible in other cases that any given concept may not exist in the corpus, and indeed may not exist among the texts of the author. In such cases the concept box as depicted on the diagram would need to indicate possibility not actual presence.
Studying concepts as well as other objects of research, entails several working assumptions, all of which bear the mark of scholarly mediations. Assumptions are not hypotheses to be confirmed or disconfirmed via research. Rather, we posit assumptions as accurate or true, and thereby they become preconditions for our research practices. Or phrased differently, assumptions provide the conditions for the possibility of scholarship; they are not what we are studying. Below I list four working assumptions, not arranged in any particular order.
The first working assumption of conceptual studies is that the concept itself conveys something more or less distinct about something in the world. For better or worse, we as humans make concepts of phenomena in the world in order to simplify the flux of reality. The implication of all this is that any given concept may not fully grasp all relevant phenomena and indeed may contain nuances that point to other potential concepts, or that could be construed by other scholars as different and/or related concepts. In my particular case, especially during my pre-corpus studies which involved close reading, performed reiteratively across individual texts, I identified related​—​even potentially(!) overlapping​—​concepts of the "inexplicable" and "incalculable" (SOCH ca.1904-5; FFNC 1933).
The second working assumption is that the author's use of a concept is more or less coherent across time and texts. That is to say, the author makes a logically ordered statement describing the concept and does not define or illustrate the concept in contradictory ways (or in ways that readers consider to be contradictory). Authors can modify the concept and this must be examined. Though close reading and concordancing we possibly can discern nuances in the author's application and examples of the concept​—​and thereby, potentially various voices of the author​—​which could then be used to formulate different aspects/dimensions of the concept, or perhaps lead us to pursue a different concept altogether. Hence, any contradictions in the author's use of the concept is an empirical question, not assumed a priori.
The third working assumption of the present study that we can discover something important about the concept by itself and its associated expressions. This is a scholarly mediation that is practical but I must acknowledge this assumption's limitations. A concept is only part of a larger network of ideas that form Du Bois's understanding of the world. To explore Du Bois in "the whole of his work" (N. Chandler 2022: 17) is vital, desirable, and global in its scope and scale. I have taken small steps to address this limitation via what I call companion ideas (R.W. Williams 2021).
The fourth working assumption involves the irrelevance of word frequencies for my interpretive inquiries. Determining word frequencies is common in many digital humanities and corpus linguistics studies (Jockers 2013; Moretti 2013; Stefanowitsch 2020). Whether a word appears once in a text/corpus or comparatively few times does not necessarily have any bearing on the authorial meaning or intertextual significance of a word designating a concept or the textual variations of a concept. A relatively high frequency word does not of necessity indicate that it is more important to the author and vice versa. Indeed, a relatively low frequency word may be a theoretical linchpin or an important part of an argumentative chain. Moreover, as the section will elaborate, textual variations of a word qua concept may be used by the author to synonymously evoke the concept without employing the word itself. As a consequence, there may be more instances of a concept among the texts than a frequency count of the specific word alone would indicate.
Such research assumptions are themselves scholarly mediations:
• in order to constrain the scope of research within more practical limits (first and third assumptions above);
• in order for research to proceed along a more or less consistent and logical path, which is important for regexing (second assumption above); and
• in order to justify the research approach and methods to be utilized (fourth assumption above).
The Concept as a Specific Word or Phrase:  Although scholars will select the concept to study, it is important to discuss whether the concept itself is explicitly used by the author or else is inferred by what the author wrote. If our research goal is to study the ways by which the author understood something about the world (i.e., how the author makes meaning), then using the author's words is important so as to retain the author's voice. That is, I ought to​—​a normative statement about research​—​remain as close to the author's thinking, while minimizing my imposition of terminology to define the author's thinking.
If the research goal is to study how the author compares to others and their understandings of the world, then we might need to employ a concept that is more umbrella-like such that it would encompass the different authors in order for us to make comparisons. This research goal is more akin to exploring the author's ideas in relation to others' ideas so as to better understand the tradition in which the author works explicitly or implicitly. To so argue that an author fits with other authors in a tradition is very much a scholarly mediation. In my particular case I have used sometimes the concept of unknowability if I wished to compare Du Bois with others discussing the same or similar idea.
The Expressions Associated with the Concept:  When studying a concept do we focus only on the specific word that designates the concept? Here arises a potential methodological issue and potential dilemma for the scholar. How might we explore Du Bois's concept of the unknowable in ways other than the specific word, while maintaining fidelity to the author's voice? In other words​—​no pun intended but acknowledged​—​is the specific word the only way to express the concept itself? Linguistics formalizes the study of what we as writers do everyday in our writing. We craft alternate and associated expressions that implicate the concept without so naming the concept. The linguistic term for this practice is onomasiology (Grondelaers et al. 2007; Halliday 2004. Also Skinner 2002; Gunnell 2011; Hampsher-Monk et al. 1998).
In the Venniform box diagram below, the Concept box is divided vertically so as to represent on the left side a "Possible Specific Word" (PSW), and to depict on the right side "Possible Associated Expressions" (PAE).
Concept as Word & Expressions
Venniform diagram: boxes 1-2-3-4-5.1-5.2
How does the choice to approach a concept onomasiologically demonstrate scholarly mediations? Du Bois did not designate any given associated expressions by the explicit word "unknowable". I as a scholar am arguing that the expression being studied evokes the principle of the unknowable because Du Bois utilized those expressions when defining or exemplifying the specific word "unknowable". Of course, Du Bois might have agreed or disagreed, and other scholars nowadays might agree or disagree with my designations. I make my case which others can examine, all as part of, and in the spirit of, scholarly inquiry.
This theoretical prelude sets up my discussion of the methods necessary to further my research goals.

Methods: The Concordancer

Closer + Distanter [sic!] Reading:  What techniques permit a form of reading at a distant​—​exploring the corpus as a whole assemblage at one time​—​coupled with closer reading focused on a text? [For such a reconciliation read Jin 2017; Piotrowski & Fafinski 2020; Rockwell & Sinclair 2016.] In my research I am seeking Du Bois's concepts as both specific words and associated expressions. To those ends I have used concordancer software with regex search protocols. In this presentation I will only be able to cover small amount material on concordancing and regexing. For more information please examine the sources listed below. This section covers the concordancer, while and the next section addresses regex searching.
Description of a Concordancer:  By means of concordancers, scholars can
• search for a word, or a part of one, and view it as part its surrounding passages, or co-text, with what is called the KWIC (Keyword in Context) window;
• locate the words within the vicinity of a search term (collocations);
• list sequentially arranged words by groups of 2, 3, 4, or 5 (n-grams); and
• count the frequency of words or characters in a document or corpus;
among other functions. In addition, concordancers usually include statistical tools to apply quantitative measures to the corpus. [Read, for example, Bradley (2004) and Tribble (2010).]
We can avail ourselves of many useful concordancers that are available for different computer platforms (Berberich & Kleiber 2022; Weisser 2022). I regularly utilize AntConc, the widely recognized concordancer that the linguist Laurence Anthony created and continues to maintain. Specifically, I use the earlier AntConc version 3.5.9 (Anthony 2020a), because at the time of this presentation, the latest release, version 4.1.x, I can not apply the regexes needed by my projects (Anthony 2022). The image below displays the interface of the AntConc 3.5.9 concordancer for Windows computers.
AntConc v3.5.9. Concordancer: Interface (KWIC View)
AntConc interface, v3.5.9.

Concordancing as Scholarly Mediation:  When using a concordancer we do not read the texts of the corpus as if we were reading a document in a file viewing program. Rather, we are reading the search results and a co-text surrounding the match within what is called typically the KWIC window [key word in context] (Bradley 2004; Sinclair 1991 & 2003; Stubbs 2002 & 2015; Tognini-Bonelli 2010).
KWIC View of Regex Search Results for
AntConc KWIC-unknowa

The results displayed in the KWIC view window provide us with a snapshot of the results matched by the search. This is a handy way to get a comprehensive understanding of how the author used the word or expression among all of the texts in the corpus. Obviously it is not a file view of the whole document. If that is required, which may happen when disambiguation is needed, then most concordancers provide an option to click on the node word (i.e., the search term usually centered in the KWIC view window), which then will take you to the appropriate spot in the appropriate document. This is a very valuable feature.
Nevertheless, the KWIC view in a concordancer does not display the overall flow of the document in which the search term is found. Therefore, concordancing is a scholarly mediation that reflects the scholar's re/searching of the author's ideas, but not necessarily how the author conveyed the idea in the fullness the document itself. Moreover, via concordancing we may miss aspects of the document that we might have found or noticed if we had closely read the document as a text. Understanding more of the fullness of authorial meaning would take another step in the research process: namely, clicking on the concordance line or node word so as to view the document as a whole through the file view feature. This form of scholarly mediation provides a trade-off: Although we gain access to a large number of texts "read" (that is, searched) as one unit, we are not quite certain what we may have gained serendipitously among the documents had we read them individually and sequentially.

Methods: Regex Searching

Regular Expressions for Searching:  Regexes apparently proliferate in the realms of computer programmers because of their extreme versatility in matching text in files. Computer programmers employ them for varied purposes: they can find and replace code while programming; and can become part of computer program itself when validating customer input within the interface. For example, does the customer input include letters when only numbers are allowed, or vice versa. Not only do compute programmers use regexes, but others like corpus linguists, do as well (Sinclair 1991, 2003; Stubbs 2015 Tognini-Bonelli 2010). I will briefly list the regexes that I have found valuable. For more detailed explanations please consult such sources as (Goyvaerts & Levithan 2012; Friedl 2006; web-based tutorials: <rexegg.com> and <regular-expressions.info>).
Several Examples:  The regexes presented here are as useful for my research as they become more enigmatic in later examples. The regex

would match as expected but not "un-knowable" with a dash. To match the two variant words we could use


which potentially could match not only "unknowable" and "un-knowable", but also "unknowability", if Du Bois had written it.
More complex regexes can be constructed, especially to search for the expressions evoking the concept of the unknowable. I call these ones proximity regexes because they will find words near each other.

This regex locates over 700 matches, a number requiring much disambiguation.
Regex {re-4} would match the following, if they existed among the documents:
• not known
• not unknown
• never know / known / knew
• never did we know
• would /do we ever know
• not that we would know
• [Note: Other statements are also possible.]
The regex would not find "not knowing" because the
at the end of
is a word boundary.
Regexing as Scholarly Mediation:  The consequences of using regular expressions on individual documents and corpora are profound (and sometimes a bit humorous, too: Atwood 2008). As the seemingly cryptic proximity regex {re-4} above hinted at, regexes are complex statements with lots of options. There are often several ways I could choose to match a pattern. Regular expressions will find what you crafted them to match, if such words exist in the documents. But they may not find what your research project is seeking. On the other hand, regexes may match what you consider irrelevant because, after all, regular expressions are literal​—​leaving the disambiguation to the scholars themselves.
The irrelevance of matches highlights the consequences of my scholarly​—​here, digital​—​mediations of Du Bois's ideas. When we explore a corpus digitally, the texts are considered as elements analytically reducible to words, and digitally reducible to bits and bytes which regex engine can process (Dobson 2019; Rockwell & Sinclair 2016: Ch.2). Nowhere is there any comprehension or cognition on the part of the regex (engine) or concordancer. The bits and bytes are analytically shorn of context which the scholar must reimpose via an interpretive synthesis of the list of search results (and their attendant co-texts) in terms of the research being undertaken.
Here I will mention without explanation several components of regexes that interpose themselves, so to say, between the researcher and the documents of the corpus.
• Do we use eager or reluctant quantifiers?
• Do we employ dot metacharacters versus character classes, including negated character classes, as ways to match any alphanumeric character or set of characters?
• Do we maintain sentence boundaries?
• Do we establish word boundaries? [This is an important consideration because we may need to take into account different word forms: "know", "known", "knowing".]
• With proximity searching what is the distance we should be using either as words or characters?
• Because regexes proceed from left to right when searching the document, do we need to reverse the Search terms? Searching for
not know
with regex {re-4} would not match "can we know this, or not".
Rather, we could reverse the search terms. Indeed, we can combine them such that the regex search engine would seek "word-A" then "word-B", and if that sequence is not matched, then alternatively the regex engine would search the words in reverse order. For example,

To exemplify: In one of Du Bois's earliest pieces, a class essay he wrote for his Harvard philosophy professor, William James, we locate a very early expression of the unknowable: "we know not how much individual minds differ" (TROE 1889: p.41).
Workflow: Regexing via Concordancer  How might we employ concordancers and regexes as part of a research process? The Venniform diagram encapsulates, in a static form, one possible research workflow.
Elements of One Possible Workflow
Venniform diagram: All 6 boxes
Of note in this Venniform diagram is that the Methods box intersects with part of the Concept box:
• "LSW" indicates that "Located Specific Words" resulted from the regex search.
• "LAE" indicates that "Located Associated Expressions" were matched.
• "IRR" indicates the "Irrelevant Results" disambiguated from the list of matches.
A sample workflow might proceed as follows:
First research phase: Search for the specific word denoting the concept.
Methods (tools and techniques): Apply regular expressions via the concordancer.
Second research phase: Examine the search results in order to discern the authors definition of the concept and its applications/uses by the author
Methods (tools and techniques): Read the co-text in the KWIC view window decide if the full text should read [via the file view feature].
Third research phase: Search for all relevant expressions that are associated with the specific word denoting the concept. [This is a good example of a scholarly mediation because other scholars may not make the same decisions regarding the associated expressions].
Methods (tools and techniques): Craft regular expressions, both for node words and for proximity between words. Apply such regexes via concordancer. Repeat this phase for all possible expressions.
Fourth research phase: Examine the search results in the KWIC view window in order to disambiguate the relevant from the irrelevant matches.
Methods (tools and techniques): Use the concordancer's KWIC view window as well as the file view window. Repeat as necessary.
[Note that the phases may be repeated and even conducted in different sequences.]

Influences of Scholarly Mediations:

No Ne-Plus-Ultra Interpretations:  What do scholarly mediations​—​and the subsequent interweavings of researcher with authors and their texts​—​tell us about the interpretations made: in particular, the conclusiveness of one single correct interpretation? Phrased differently, is there a finality for interpretations that we make, one that will stand the test of time? Is there one interpretation ne plus ultra of Du Bois, his ideas, and his texts, whether mine or others? In this section, I will argue that my interpretations of Du Bois can be both tentative and plausible, but neither final nor (stand-)alone in its claims. [This is my reading of Bevir & Rhodes's discussion of interpretive Political Science (2015).]
My Interpretations Are Tentative Because...  My research is tentative because of at least three basic factors. The first factor involves the limits of my positionality as a white male which influence how I conceive the world and how I conduct research (Haraway 1991; Tuhiwai Smith 1999). The second factor involves the instability of the research elements over time and place.
• New texts by the author might be found;
• The corpus can be more comprehensive or more representative;
• Other theoretical frameworks might be used;
• Other historical considerations and new intertextuality connections might be made;
• Other research questions might be posed;
• Other methods could be used [quantitative techniques provide different insights];
• Research assumptions might be relaxed or changed; and
Et cetera.
Furthermore, and very importantly, the third factor as to why my interpretations are tentative emerges from my intellectual relationships within the scholarly communities from whom I learn. The other members of those communities will pursue their own research and readings according to the research elements listed above, as well as make their mediating choices from the perspectives that the scholars themselves bring to their work (Drucker 2012; Gadamer 2004). The scholarly communities stretch forward across time and place, and thereby generates new research over time and place. Their ongoing research will resonate with me, helping me to understand Du Bois and thereby, influencing my research. Ultimately, and generally speaking, interpretations​—​both mine and others​—​will be evidence-based, and thereby diagnostically authoritative, but also tentative because the research process is on-going with many contributing participants.
Does this mean that no interpretations can be excluded and that all interpretations are permitted?
My Interpretations Could Be Plausible, If....  The plausibility of my interpretations might be enhanced, and their coherence and cogency strengthened to the extent that I can adhere to the following elements of research conventions:
• evidence deriving from sound provenance;
• theoretically coherent frameworks (e.g., onomasiology);
• attention to historical and intertextual contexts;
• pertinent research questions [based on the evidence used and also on the researcher: me and my decisions and positionality];
• methodological rigor;
• explicit assumptions [how to approach (and sensitivity to) the consistency, modifications, ambiguities, contradictions of Du Bois's thinking and concepts across texts and time].
Et cetera.
Conversely, failure to adhere to some or many of the research elements might make my interpretation less plausible. I strive to provide evidence to back my claims and to fashion a coherent argumentative structure. Accordingly, I hope that my interpretations are plausible to make, despite their lack of finality and their ultimate tentativeness in the face of time and other scholars.
Toward a Theme of the Unknowable for Du Bois:  To argue that the unknowable is a theme in Du Bois's thought across time and texts, and even to create a typology of the concept in its variations, is also to exhibit my scholarly mediations when interpreting the texts. The unknowable, I argue, was a theme because he referred to it directly by specific name in later texts and indirectly by associated expressions across his life in situations involving our knowledge or nescience of something (R.W.Williams 2018a). However, the unknowable was not an explicitly stated theme for Du Bois in the same way as his pursuit of a "science of human action" in the quest for usable knowledge by which to promote racial justice. In the latter case Du Bois specifically used that particular phrase "science of human action" across the span of his life from 1904 onward.
I do support my arguments with the evidence that Du Bois provided, not only by the specific word, but also by the associated expressions that (as I interpret) are textually implicated​—​all derived from the methods described herein. In doing so, I recognize differences between the unknowable in principle and uncertainty, which originates from his views on free will and evolutionary theory (R.W.Williams 2018b). I suggest that my argument is plausible but always already tentative, for reasons discussed above. Others may agree or disagree with me; they even might modify my claims. Such is all apropos to scholars and their work/s.
I am thinking with multiple communities of scholars, whose insights and methods inform my research. I acknowledge that their contributions are innumerable, important, and interwoven throughout my scholarship.
• •   •••   • •


A. Works Written or Edited by Du Bois

BFT1. 1957. The Ordeal of Mansart. [Black Flame, Vol. 1]. NY: Mainstream Publishers. ["Postscript": 315-316].

DARK. 1920. Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil. NY: Harcourt, Brace and Howe.

FFNC. 1933 [1973]. "The Field and Function of the Negro College". In Herbert Aptheker (Ed.), The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906-1960. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1973.

GBF. 1924. The Gift of Black Folk. Boston, MA: The Stratford Co.

IASC. 1905. "The Individual and Social Conscience" [Originally Untitled]. Pp.53-55 in Religious Education Association, The Aims of Religious Education. The Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention..., 1905. Chicago: Executive Office of the Religious Education Association. <www.archive.org/details/proceedingsofann03reliuoft>.

LCH. 1943. "Letter from W.E.B. Du Bois to American Philosophical Association, December 13, 1943." [Letter to Charles W. Hendel]. W.E.B. Du Bois Papers. Special Collections & University Archives. University of Massachusetts Library. Accessed September 6, 2015. <http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b099-i286>.

LHA. 1956 [1978]. "Letter to Herbert Aptheker, January 10, 1956." Pp.394-396 in Herbert Aptheker (Ed.), The Correspondence of W.E.B. Du Bois: Vol. III: Selections, 1944-1963. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

MEPF. 1944. "My Evolving Program for Negro Freedom." Pp.31-70 in Rayford W. Logan (Ed.), What the Negro Wants. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

SOCH. Ca. 1904-1905. "Sociology Hesitant." Credo Repository. URL: http://credo.library.​umass.edu/​view/​full/​mums312-b212-i003 [Metadata indicates "ca. 1905" as the possible date of creation].

TROE. 1889. "The Renaissance of Ethics: A Critical Comparison of Scholastic and Modern Ethics." [Thesis in Philosophy IV; William James, Professor; Harvard University]. W.E.B. Du Bois Collection (Call No. JWJ MSS 8, Box 3, Folder 57). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. Retrieved from <http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3490101>

B. Works Written or Edited by Others

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Allen, Graham. 2000. Intertextuality. [The New Critical Idiom.] London: Routledge.

Alridge, Derrick P. 2008. The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History. NY: Teachers College Press.

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Anthony, Laurence. 2020a. AntConc 3.5.9. [Computer Software, 64-bit]. Tokyo, Japan: Waseda University. URL: http://www.antlab.sci.waseda.ac.jp/

Anthony, Laurence. 2020b. AntConc Version 3.5.9. Help File. Japan: Waseda University. URL: https://laurenceanthony.net/software/antconc/releases/AntConc359/help.pdf

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. 2014. Lines of Descent: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Aptheker, Herbert (Ed.). 1973. Annotated Bibliography of the Published Writings of W.E.B. Du Bois. Millwood, NY: Kraus-Thomson Organization.

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Barthes, Roland. 1967 [1977.] "The Death of the Author." Pp. 142-148 in Image Music Text, Edited and Translated by Steven Heath. London: Fontana Press. [First English-language source: Aspen, no.5+6 (Fall-Winter 1967): https://www.ubu.com/​aspen/​aspen5and6/​threeEssays.html​#barthes [Translated by Richard Howard (Issue TOC)].

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Williams, Geoffrey & Chrystel Millon. 2012. "Palmer, Firth and Internet: Drawing together collocational threads". Corpus Linguistics 2011, July 2011, Birmingham, United Kingdom. pp.1-34. URL: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00725301.

Williams, Robert W. 2006. "The Early Social Science of W.E.B. Du Bois." Du Bois Review, 3:2 (September): 365-394.

Williams, Robert W. 2009a. "Atlanta University School of Sociological Research". Pp.37-40 in Helen Taylor Greene & Shaun L. Gabbidon (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Race and Crime. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Williams, Robert W. 2009b. "Paradoxes of the South in W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk." Mississippi Quarterly, 62:1-2 (Winter-Spring): 71-94.

Williams, Robert W. 2014. "W.E.B. Du Bois's 'The Individual and Social Conscience' (1905): The Primary Source & Its Interpretation" [web page]. Part of webdubois.org.

Williams, Robert W. 2016a. "W.E.B. Du Bois on Scientific Knowledge and Its Limits." Paper presented at the Symposium Celebrating the 120th Anniversary of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory and the Work of W.E.B. Du Bois, Clark Atlanta University. February 25, 2016. .

Williams, Robert W. 2016b. "The Intertextuality of Du Bois's Idea of Human­ity: A Collation Analy­sis." Paper presented at the 30th Sym­po­sium on African American Culture and Phi­los­o­phy​—​"Exploring the 'Humanity' in the Digital Humanities." Sponsored by the African Ameri­can Studies and Research Center, Purdue University. 2 Decem­ber 2016. ​[Online].

Williams, Robert W. 2017. "W.E.B. Du Bois at the Horizon of History and Sociology." Presentation at the Second Annual Conference of the African American Intellectual History Society, Vanderbilt University. March 24, 2017.

Williams, Robert W. 2018a. "A Democracy of Differences: Knowledge and the Unknowable in Du Bois's Theory of Democratic Governance." Pp.181-203 in Nick Bromell (Ed.), A Political Companion to W.E.B. Du Bois. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Williams, Robert W. 2018b. "Du Bois's Jamesian Pragmatism: Chance, Science, and Social Critique". Presen­ta­tion at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, 31 August 2018. ​[Online].

Williams, Robert W. 2021a. "W.E.B. Du Bois on Democracy and Its Companion Ideas: Concordancing Their Intricacies." Presented at the 2021 North Carolina Political Science Association Conference, Virtual. 26 February 2021.

Williams, Robert W. 2021b. "Reading at a Distance, But Much Closer: A Study in Humanities Concordancing". Presentation at the 2021 Making of the Humanities–IX Virtual Conference on September 20, 2021. .

Williams, Robert W. & W.E.B. Du Bois [Primary source]. 2012. "'The Sacred Unity in All the Diversity': The Text and a Thematic Analysis of W.E.B. Du Bois's 'The Individual and Social Conscience' ​(1905)." Journal of African American Studies, 16:3 (September): 456-497. [Available online as a PDF preprint version].

Wright II, Earl. 2016. The First American School of Sociology: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory. Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing.

Yanow, Dvora. 2006. "Thinking Interpretively: Philosophical Presuppositions and the Human Sciences". Pp.5-26 in Yanow, Dvora & Peregrine Schwartz-Shea (Eds.), Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

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