This post gives you a chance to share your thoughts about Friday evening’s presentation by Natalie Houston and Neal Audenaert.
I noticed at least a couple of issues that have come up in earlier sessions of this class that might be worth elaborating on:
1. Why use digital tools for humanities work? Dr. Houston’s argument here was especially interesting, I thought. On the one hand, she echoed the arguments of Drs. Guldi and Black about the need to use computers just to manage the sheer abundance of digitized sources at our disposal. But she also suggested that digital methods might allow scholars in her field to bypass or reframe some of the major ways of thinking about the field, particularly by upsetting the notion of what constituted the literary “canon” in the nineteenth century.
2. Is digital reading a form of distant reading, or something else entirely? There was an interesting exchange about whether what The Visual Page project is doing counts as “close” reading (after all, it’s trying to look at things like the difference between a semicolon or a comma) or “distant” reading (because of the size of the corpus). Perhaps what we need is some other term, like “digital reading,” to describe what projects like this are doing.
3. Why collaborate, and how? We’ve talked before about the need for collaboration in many digital humanities projects, so it was interesting to be able to hear both from a computer scientist and a literary historian about their experiences working together. Dr. Houston noted that this kind of collaboration can feel unfamiliar at first given that so much of our training in the humanities focuses on individual work; has that been your experience, too?
4. Metadata! We’ve had several speakers now who have been involved in projects that analyze bibliographic metadata to ask new questions: Black uses compression clustering on archival finding aids, Guldi uses Paper Machines to get a sense of huge bureaucracies and what different organizations talk about, and Houston is building a database of published volumes of poetry in the nineteenth century. All of this suggests the importance, and richness, not just of data but of metadata.
Feel free to comment on any of these topics, or something else entirely, in the comments.