Monthly Archives: January 2013

Here is a blog entry on “Where to start with text mining” that looks very useful!

The Stone and the Shell

[Edit June 8, 2015: This blog post has been rewritten and updated. See Seven Ways Humanists are Using Computers to Understand Text.]

This post is an outline of discussion topics I’m proposing for a workshop at NASSR2012 (a conference of Romanticists). I’m putting it on the blog since some of the links might be useful for a broader audience.

In the morning I’ll give a few examples of concrete literary results produced by text mining. I’ll start the afternoon workshop by opening two questions for discussion: first, what are the obstacles confronting a literary scholar who might want to experiment with quantitative methods? Second, how do those methods actually work, and what are their limits?

I’ll also invite participants to play around with a collection of 818 works between 1780 and 1859, using an R program I’ve provided for the occasion. Links for these materials are at the end…

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Literary History, Seen Through Big Data’s Lens – NYTimes.com

 A recent study has found, Jane Austen, author of “Pride and Prejudice, “ and Sir Walter Scott, the creator of “Ivanhoe,” had the greatest effect on other authors, in terms of writing style and themes.

These two were “the literary equivalent of Homo erectus, or, if you prefer, Adam and Eve,” Matthew L. Jockers wrote in research published last year. He based his conclusion on an analysis of 3,592 works published from 1780 to 1900. It was a lot of digging, and a computer did it.

Literary History, Seen Through Big Data’s Lens – NYTimes.com.

This kind of literary macro-history is fascinating, because it takes advantage of a wider lens than we have yet been able to wield. Of course, any attempts at quantifying the slippery concept of literary influence are subject to limitations; but scientists understand this, and make clear that such empiricized measures rely on assumptions that may prove to be false. Thus the measures themselves have to be tested and tweaked. The problem is that scientists understand this better than many literary scholars do. Literary scholars often assume that their methods are accurate measures of what they are trying to gauge. The concept of literary influence is one such (often) unexamined assumption.

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Swartz didn’t face prison until feds took over case, report says | Politics and Law – CNET News

Swartz didn’t face prison until feds took over case, report says | Politics and Law – CNET News.

 

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Aaron Swartz, a Data Crusader and Now, a Cause – NYTimes.com

Aaron Swartz, a Data Crusader and Now, a Cause – NYTimes.com.

More about the career, and legacy, of Aaron Swartz.

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Reblogging from a different blog that I am closing down…

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Reblogging from another blog I am closing down…

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Posted this to the wrong blog a while ago….

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Aaron Swartz, Internet Activist, Dies at 26 – NYTimes.com

Aaron Swartz, Internet Activist, Dies at 26 – NYTimes.com.

The death of Mr. Swartz, apparently by suicide, is a tragic loss to the open access movement, and indeed to the world at large. He is perhaps most famously known for having hacked into the computer network at M.I.T. and then downloading most of the articles available on JSTOR in an attempt to make them free to the public. He was facing charges for that act that could have netted him years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

JSTOR itself, it should be noted, declined to press charges. It was the State Prosecutor for Massachusetts* who pursued Mr. Swartz (to his death, some would argue).

As an academic who participates in the process of scholarly information production and exchange, I have some understanding of the time, money, and effort it takes to conduct research, write and publish articles, run an academic journal, collect and curate said articles, and archive them in ways that make them available to others in a useful form. That work deserves fair compensation. But at the same time, corporations have become gatekeepers to that information (which is often produced at public expense at public universities, funded by public grants) and are charging what appear to be exorbitant amounts of money for access.

The Open Access model of information production and distribution requires a fundamental restructuring of the way information is produced, circulated, and valued in our culture. The current model is deeply entrenched, and will not change without significant buy-in from stakeholders who are currently highly resistant. Thus some activists are taking back their power by circumventing the system and forming alternate systems outside the current publishing structure. Mr. Swartz was one of those. He did so, not for any gain of his own, but because of his passionate conviction that the producers and users of information need to take back control of their intellectual property and make it freely available (or as free as possible). The entire system of scholarly production and exchange is changing, and the sooner the corporations that tie up intellectual information in proprietary databases realize this, the better.

*Correction: an earlier version of this post said it was the federal government that pursued prosecution of Mr. Swartz. The corrected information is above.

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On ‘The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities’ – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

On ‘The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities’ – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Digital Humanities as the evil empire??  This is pure paranoia about the digital humanities from those who don’t really know what it is. The digital humanities, broadly speaking, is a ‘big tent” containing many different types of tools and approaches. But they are meant to supplement–not replace–the kinds of traditional activities and approaches humanists engage in, such as close reading and archival research.

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