Roundtable Digging into Data

AHA Session 5
Thursday, January 5, 2012: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Chicago Ballroom VIII (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Brett Bobley, National Endowment for the Humanities
The Future Is Here: Digital Methods in Research and Teaching in History

Session Abstract

The Digging into Data Challenge encourages humanities and social science research using large-scale data analysis, challenging scholars to develop international partnerships and explore vast digital resources, including electronic repositories of books, newspapers, and photographs to identify new opportunities for scholarship. The Challenge was announced in 2009 by four leading research agencies: the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) from the United Kingdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the United States, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) from Canada. Eight collaborative international teams received grants to explore a wide range of topics, many of them historical. This roundtable presents the results of four of those teams.

"Digging into the Enlightenment: Mapping the Republic of Letters" seeks to recover the scholarly communities and networks of knowledge between ca. 1500-1800 through an exploration of empirical data gleaned from correspondences, publications, and travel records, combined with the interpretive expertise of historians and literary scholars. 

"Railroads and the making of Modern America--Tools for Spatio-Temporal Correlation, Analysis and Visualization" creates a framework and software engine for integrating spatio-temporal historical data from diverse sources for correlation, analysis, and visualization by focusing on one of the most significant transnational processes in history--the development of railroads.

"Using Zotero and TAPOR on the Old Bailey Proceedings:Data Mining with Criminal Intent" uses an API approach to expose the 120 million words of the Old Bailey Proceedings, first to Zotero, where libraries of trials and can created and manipulated, and then to Voyeur, which allows advanced linguistic and datamining tools to be applied to the text.

"Towards Dynamic Variorum Editions" creates a framework to produce "dynamic variorum" editions of classics texts that enable the reader to automatically link not only to variant editions but also to relevant citations, quotations, people, and places that are found in a digital library of over one million primary and secondary source texts.

In addition to showing the scholarly results of these projects, the panel will discuss what they discovered in the Digging into Data program in general, issues related to collaboration in digital history, and the potential for similar work in other areas of history.

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