Thanks to everyone for the good discussion last night at Chad Black’s lecture and workshop! This post contains some thoughts about both, with an invitation to you to share your own reactions.
The Lecture: I thought it was interesting that some of the same challenges that have come up earlier in this course, like how to categorize ambiguous historical realities, came up again in this talk. To me it was also interesting to hear Chad talk about how digital visualizations of his data were actually critical to exposing the limitations of the data in a way that close readings of a few documents might not.
The Workshop: Much of our conversation centered around how to think of digital history or history “programming” as an approach to problem-solving, a way to address specific obstacles or speed bumps that might arise as part of your workflow as an historian. Chad also shared with us how the problem of “archival abundance” (i.e., returning home with thousands of digital photos) led him into scripting for the first time. Have you also encountered this problem of archival abundance in your work? Are there “problems” in your workflow that you are now thinking about tackling with computational methods? Did Chad’s experience give you a sense of how someone might move from “hacking” workflow problems to using the same tools for preliminary research or substantive questions about historical content?
Please post your comments about any of this (or anything else that the visit prompted for you). Also, you may also want to read more about Chad’s clustering techniques on Digital Humanities Now.