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How can humanities scholars use computational methods, digital workflows and algorithmic thinking to advance their work?

How can humanities scholars use computational methods, digital workflows and algorithmic thinking to advance their work?

"Hopefully I will convince you that you can learn how to program.  I am a Historian not a Programmer.  I hope you will see ways that it can help with research and scholarship.  This is the age for getting stuff online."

  But today, I thought he was fun to listen to as he tried to introduce the topic to us informally – “Doing Digital Research Programmatically.”

  When I say “digging deep,” I mean digging deep because McDaniel had over sixteen thousand items – letters, memos, manuscript, publications, and other documents that Garrison had either written or received from people within his network.

  How long will it take you? How often would you have to return back to the library? You imagine just going through and not knowing what you are looking for half the time :) because you do not know where these items are exactly located. Will you be willing to get your hands on this exercise again?

  One could only imagine the amount of time that would have been lost in searching (or digging out) the catalogue. 

  Amazingly, BPL has started digitizing; uploading to the Internet Archive and it is free to the public domain book too. What is more awesome is that each uploaded item is paired with a wealth of metadata suitable for machine-reading.  These are all done with a click of the key and these arrays of resources are made available irrespective of distance.  In addition, you could read the original manuscript from the confines of your comfort zone, save lot of time and stress from having to make trips to Boston.  You can also download multiple files that are related to Garrison’s items that are rich in metadata, such as the Dublin Core used in Omeka and the MARCXML that uses the library of Congress’s MARCH 21 format for Bibliographic Data. 

 The imminent flow of data will migrate within and beyond organizational, geographical, and scholarly boundaries easily and quickly in various formats and multiple sources.  It also supports the capability and diversity of the users, computing resources and the enactment technologies.  Largely, this technique will enhance collaboration which in turn will open up the opportunity of sourcing information that involves multidisciplinary expertise and large-scale computational experiments.  For example, I thought it was fascinating when he said, “run into a problem?” “Don’t hesitate; ask Google.  Google has got an answer.  Interestingly, you may find someone in the same forum who had had your kind of challenge.  In Google, be sure to get an answer.”  This again, I suppose, create a network for people of like mind across disciplines to connect. It is fascinating to me to think about how this multiplicity of digitized items with wealth of information can reconstruct and take your research project in a totally different direction.;

  Of course, I have no prior basic knowledge of computer science like some of the “gurus” in class.  And their responses made me feel like the student that Miraim Poser described in her “Some things to think about before you exhort everyone to code,”  Why should I be the one to slow the folks down?  But I am pleased to say McDaniel has planted a seed, and I look forward to a time when I will explore this skill soon.  Undoubtedly, it is a kit that I must add to my tool box. I definitely will need it down the road.   How do you figure out what is significant to your work?



1 comment

Itohan, I think you ask the right questions at the end.  This is the challenge of digital scholarship. It is an important reason to at least understand how data analysis works.  Before the digital age, we could only read one thing at a time.  Computers allow us to "read" thousands or millions of texts "simultaneously" and that allows us to ask and answer questions that could have never been addressed before.