Tag Archives: big data

Spanish Flu Project at Virginia Tech via Chronicle of Higher Education

http://chronicle.com/article/Big-Data-Project-on-1918-Flu/190457/

Soldiers with the Spanish flu are hospitalized inside the U. of Kentucky gym in 1918. In one prevention method examined in a new study, New Yorkers were advised to refrain from kissing “except through a handkerchief.” – via the Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education (February 27, 2015) contains an article by Jennifer Howard on the Spanish Flu Project: a big data project funded by the NEH (among other entities) exploring reporting on the 1918 Spanish Flu. As Howard describes the research:

The team began with several questions: How did reporting on the Spanish flu spread in 1918? And how big a role did one influential person play in shaping how the outbreak was handled? . . . Royal S. Copeland was the health commissioner of New York City in August 1918, when a ship arrived in New York Harbor from Europe with flu victims aboard . . . . Copeland helped set the tone for how the nation reacted to a viral threat—and has been the subject of debate among historians ever since, with competing camps arguing about whether he did enough.

Researchers would typically scour public statements by Copeland to answer these questions. But since the outbreak was “well documented in the popular press of the day,” it seemed an ideal topic for “digitally enabled scholarship.”

Using the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database of historical newspapers, the HathiTrust Digital Library, and other sources, the Virginia Tech researchers sought out direct and indirect evidence of Copeland’s role: mentions and quotations, references to flu-containment strategies he promoted. “You can see his influence even if his name’s not used,” Mr. Ewing says.

The article does a good job highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of this form of digital scholarship. As Howard notes, this complex project requires both “code and context”:

To produce useful results, this kind of investigation depends on customized algorithms. But coming up with a good algorithm involves both code and context, a mingling of the complementary strengths of computer scientists and humanists . . . . The hybrid, trial-and-error nature of the Spanish-flu investigation may say something about the current state of computer-assisted humanities work. Mr. Bobley of the NEH says he has been impressed with the flu researchers’ “candid thoughts on how computational approaches like data mining are no magic bullet,” even as they expand what humanists can do. The work is a reminder, he says, that “historical documents like newspapers are rich, messy, nuanced, and complex documents that defy easy computational analysis.”

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Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities, News – excerpt

Here is a short news article from Princeton explaining some of the projects they are undertaking at their Center for Digital Humanities. It gives an excellent example of how a humanities undergraduate can work with a faculty member to do real research using digital tools. This is the kind of work I would like to do with undergraduates!  I’ve included an excerpt below and the link to the article.

http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S41/14/10S31/index.xml?section=topstories

Sometimes, opposites attract.

Princeton senior Brian Lax is an English major, passionate about British literature. He is also passionate about computer science and is earning a certificate in statistics and machine learning. Determined to marry these two seemingly disparate parts of his academic experience for his senior thesis, he set out to track revisions of poems by W.H. Auden across time — using the computer as his chief research tool.

Working with his adviser, Meredith Martin, associate professor of English and director of theCenter for Digital Humanities, Lax began his journey into the field of digital humanities.

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The Algorithms of Our Lives – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Here is another thoughtful article, this time from The Chronicle of Higher Education, about the need to theorize the role of software in digital media, especially the way users interact with digital materials (the article is linked below). Although not the major point of the article, the author Lev Manovich makes an interesting observation about digital humanities:

Over the past few years, a growing number of scholars in the digital humanities have started to use computational tools to analyze large sets of static digitized cultural artifacts, such as 19th-century novels or the letters of Enlightenment thinkers. They follow traditional humanities approaches—looking at the cultural objects (rather than peoples’ interaction with these objects). What has changed is the scale, not the method.

Instead, Manovich argues that “peoples’ interaction with these objects” — not documents, but performances–is the data of the future, and software not only makes new sorts of interactions possible, it is also the means for tracking and analyzing those interactions.

via The Algorithms of Our Lives – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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CFP: Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library | HASTAC

Call For Conference Proposals

Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library

June 20-22 2014, Charleston, SC

Guidelines for Submission
Lightning Round/Paper/Panel deadline: 01 December 2013
Workshop proposal deadline: 01 February 2014

General Information

“Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library,” sponsored by the South Carolina Digital Library, the College of Charleston and the Charleston Conference, invites submissions for its 2014 conference, on all aspects of digital humanities in the library. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Digital scholarship
  • Humanities & library collaborations on DH projects
  • GIS and/or data visualization projects
  • Text mining & data analysis
  • Digital humanities librarianship
  • Digital project management
  • Knowledge lifecycle, including production & collaboration
  • Creating or using tools & services for the production, editing and/or analysis of DH data
  • Metadata and linked data in DH

We particularly welcome collaborative panel and paper submissions from librarian and humanities scholar-based teams and/or graduate students. We strongly encourage any proposals relating to the theme of the conference.

CFP: Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library | HASTAC.

 

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CFP: Big Data and the Humanities | HASTAC

CFP: Big Data and the Humanities | HASTAC.

The Workshop on Big Humanities will be held in conjunction with the 2013 IEEE International Conference on Big Data (IEEE BigData 2013), which will take place between 6-9 October 2013 in Silicon Valley, California, USA, and which provides a leading international forum for disseminating the latest research in the growing field of “big data”.

The workshop will address applications of “big data” in the humanities, arts and culture, and the challenges and possibilities that such increased scale brings for scholarship in these areas.

The use of computational methods in the humanities is growing rapidly, with the increasing quantities of born-digital primary sources (such as emails, social media) and the large-scale digitisation programmes applied to libraries and archives. This has resulted in a range of interesting applications and case studies, and at the same time highlights the interpretative issues raised by applying such “hard” methods for answering subjective questions in the humanities.

Moreover, the questions and concerns raised by the humanities themselves have consequences for the interpretation in general of “big data” and the uses to which it is put, and the challenges of producing quality – meaning, knowledge and value – from  quantity. The workshop will thus also address complementary research that uses the humanities and its methods to provide a critical appraisal of “big data” in other areas, both inside and outside academia.

Research topics covered:

Topics covered by the workshop include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Text- and data-mining of historical and archival material.
  • Social media analysis, including sentiment analysis
  • Cultural analytics
  • Crowd-sourcing and big data
  • Cyber-infrastructures for the humanities
  • Relationship between ‘small data’ and big data
  • NoSQL databases and their application, e.g. document and graph databases
  • Big data and the construction of memory and identity
  • Big data and archival practice
  • Construction of big data
  • Big data in Heritage

Paper Submission:

Please submit a full-length paper through the online submission system. Papers may be up to 9 pages in length, and should be submitted as a PDF formatted according to the IEEE Computer Society Proceedings Manuscript Formatting GuidelinesLaTex Formatting Macros. The submission deadline is 30 July 2013.

All papers accepted for the workshop will be included in the Workshop Proceedings published by the IEEE Computer Society Press, which will be made available at the Conference.

Important dates:

July 30, 2013: Due date for submission of full workshop papers
August 20, 2013: Notification of paper acceptance to authors
September 10, 2013: Camera-ready versions of accepted papers
October 6-9 2013: Workshop [exact date TBD]

For more information, see the workshop website at http://bighumanities.net/and the main conference website athttp://www.ischool.drexel.edu/bigdata/bigdata2013/.

 

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Big data meets the Bard – FT.com

Big data meets the Bard – FT.com.

Yet another article about the perhaps “diabolical” use of “Big Data” in the humanities. The article describes the author’s reactions to a Skype seminar from the Stanford Literary Lab. While I don’t think that “Big Data” will replace actually reading novels, I did cringe at this quote:

Ryan Heuser, 27-year-old associate director for research at the Literary Lab, tells me he can’t remember the last time he read a novel. “It was probably a few years ago and it was probably a sci-fi. But I don’t think I’ve read any fiction since I’ve been involved with the lab.”

But reading books, and analyzing Big Data, as I’ve said before on this blog, are different –and complementary–tasks.

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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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