In recent decades, empirical approaches have become increasingly popular in studying the arts—visual and performing arts, literature, music, and other hybrid forms and media. This is reflected mainly in the success of the digital humanities, but also in the frequency and depth with which empirical work on art reception is acknowledged in more traditional humanities departments. Another notable example of this trend is, of course, our own, fast-developing field—empirical aesthetics. Nevertheless, actual empirical work remains scarce in most humanities departments, and knowledge of how to conduct such research is rarely part of the curriculum.
To address this problem, we are preparing a methods handbook for colleagues from the humanities who wish to perform systematic empirical research in the arts.
Our handbook is meant to achieve three main objectives: a) to provide hands-on, how-to guidance for preparing and conducting empirical studies and analyzing the data; b) to help manage expectations regarding what empirical research in the arts can and cannot accomplish; and c) to provide humanities scholars with a basic reading competence for more complex empirical data that they would likely not be able to collect or analyze on their own.
Given that the field of empirical research in the arts is rapidly evolving, we are additionally preparing an extensive resource wiki that contains bibliographies and information about methods, software, existing programming code, available digital corpora, etc., and that will be continually updated.