Course Web Site: http://hda15.benschmidt.org


Data analysis in the humanities presents challenges of scale, interpretation, and communication distinct from the social sciences or sciences. It also, some argue, opens up new opportunities for creative storytelling and narrativity. This seminar will explore the emerging pratices of data analysis in the digital humanities from both a critical and a practical perspective.

What light can algorithmic approaches shed on live questions in humanistic scholarship? What new forms of research are enabled by the use of data? What sort of data do practicing humanists want museums and libraries to make available?

Our goal in this class will be to explore the new emerging forms of data analysis taking place in humanities scholarship, both in terms of applying algorithms and in terms of better investigating the presuppositions and biases of the digital object. We’ll aim to come out much more sophisticated in the use of computational techniques and much more informed about how others might use them.

A wide variety of types of data will be used but we will focus particularly on methods for analyzing texts, particularly messy data from the Chronicling America Newspapers collection and clean TEI.

Working with these texts will allow us to ask more sophisticated questions on large documents of scholarly importance.

Note on flexibility.

This is an advanced graduate seminar; I hope that the syllabus will change in response to your own interests and readings. The last week, in particular, will be decided by vote.

This flexibility may cause problems of “versioning”: what version of the syllabus should you believe? So for the record, the priority for what to do consists of:

  1. Any e-mails or announcements in class.
  2. The current version of the syllabus on the course web site.
  3. The most recent paper copy of the syllabus handed out.

Research option

Students who wish to take this course as a research class may do so. Exactly what this means may vary by department. But the key thing distinguishing a research project from a normal taking of this class is that you will be expected to try to find ways, when possible, to apply these methodologies to your own sources of historical data, textual or tabular. Be aware this may mean a significant outlay, particularly in the early weeks, of cleaning and tidying data in ways we will touch on only tangentially in the course itself.

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