Lecture at King’s College London, 25 January 2012

….A standard point of historical reference in thinking about the modern information revolution is the arrival of print in the fifteenth century, but perhaps a closer parallel is the way in which the growth of empire and the resulting changes in industry and agriculture transformed Britain in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century. David Simpson has pointed out how Wordsworth’s reference to ‘bright volumes of vapour’ in his poem ‘Poor Susan’ in the Lyrical Ballads may refer to the over-production of cheap and worthless literature – a data deluge whose effects preoccupied Wordsworth.

In previous posts, I’ve shown how WordSeer can be used to explore small, well-defined questions:what word did Shakespeare use for ‘beautiful’? Is the occurrence of the word ‘love’ the same in the comedies and tragedies? This post is different. WordSeer has now developed enough to support a simple, but complete, exploratory analysis.

The question we’ll think about is this:

“How does the portrayal of men and women in Shakespeare’s plays change under different circumstances?”

As one answer, we’ll see how WordSeer suggests that when love is a major plot point, the language referring to women changes to become more physical, and the language referring to men becomes more sentimental. You can watch a screencast here, or just read this post.

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The monologue in a crowdsourced world: have digital resources rendered the inaugural lecture obsolete?

The longer I work in DH, and the more I consider what the digital medium makes possible the more the idea of me standing up and telling people what I think and thus by implication what they might think seems frankly bizarre. I increasingly dislike the idea of the single voice speaking with some kind of a spurious authority. One of the great assets of the digital, and what it encourages and enables is multiple voices entering into a dialogue and creating new knowledge out of conversation and discussion. In what follows, therefore, I propose to look carefully at this apparent contradiction.

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As I continue to plan out this spring’s Digitizing Folk Music Historycourse with the ace librarians, archivists, and technologists at Northwestern University’s library, I keep returning to the concept of annotation as a core concern for digital historians.

I suspect that literary scholars have done a lot of thinking about annotation, but have historians? Chauncey Monte-Sano has a good post about teaching annotation on the teachinghistory.org website. Her post is directed toward K-12 education (important!). But I think the art of annotation also has bigger implications for historical teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. So too, it proposes new modes of research, publication, and scholarly communication in the field of history.

Collection Achievements and Profiles System and DPLA Crawler Services

This is a quick strawman proposal for what the Digital Public Library of America should build as the first parts of a generative platform. This document is not in a finished state, but just as the DPLA has been good at opening up its process with the Beta Sprint, I wanted to release this document early even in this unfinished state.

We have the advantage of arriving late to the game.

In the cut-throat world of high-tech venture capitalism, the first company with a good idea often finds itself at the mercy of latecomers. The latecomer’s product might be better-thought-out, advertised to a more appropriate market, or simply prettier, but in each case that improvement comes through hindsight. Trailblazers might get there first, but their going is slowest, and their way the most dangerous.

Digital humanities finds itself teetering on the methodological edge of many existing disciplines, boldly going where quite a few have gone before.

My aim for that paper, and for this, is to think through my hesitation with regard to the new, history, form, and meaning. Briefly put, and not saying anything new as yet I think, I value new forms and processes of discourse, ones that seek to overcome limitations inherited from the past in order to make meaning in new ways. These forms and processes would have to, perhaps, ignore history and the methods of meaning making it affords us. However, I also value history, however problematic, insofar as it allows us to contextualize, understand, and make judgments about the new.

[T]his article is a call for a refocusing of academic work on historical videogames.  A call for an approach that does not get detained by primarily examining the particular historical content of each game (i.e. historical accuracy or what a game ‘says’ about a particular period it depicts) but instead tries to establish an analytical framework that privileges analysis of form (i.e. how the particular audio-visual-ludic structures of the game operate to produce meaning and allow the player to explore/configure discourse about the past). The benefit of this is that we do not just gain knowledge of a particular historical representation but instead, conclusions about form (a particular game-structure’s operations) are then transferable to an understanding of games made up of similar ludic (and audio-visual) elements.

Recently I was writing a paper for a journal and needed to cite the Old Bailey Online (OBO). Not any particular piece of content contained in the project, but the project itself as an outstanding example of digital humanities work. For those unfamiliar with the venture, it’s a database containing 127 million words of historical trial transcripts marked up extensively with XML; still the flagship project of its kind in this author’s opinion. I found myself struggling to decide who the authors of the project were; that is, whose names was I bound by “good scholarship” to include in the citation. Who deserved public credit?