Shall the twain meet? Blending Digital Humanities and computational sciences
With growing amounts of digital data becoming available, many Humanities researchers face a potentially unenviable choice: either scale up their analyses via computational methods and lose the specificity that is one of the hallmarks of humanistic research or stick to the specifics and miss the opportunity presented by the new big datasets. However, these do not have to be the only options.
The combination of so-called close reading and distant reading is seen by many as the way forward for Digital Humanities, and the ambition to reach across this methodological divide is echoed in industry and in the computational sciences community, with an increasing emphasis on interpretable algorithms and human-centred data science.
In this talk I will share my experience on realizing this combination in practice, conducting interdisciplinary research at the intersection between Digital Humanities and computational sciences at The Alan Turing Institute, UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. I will focus on the analysis of historical textual collections and highlight the challenges and the mutual benefits that arise in projects where humanists work together with computational scientists.
Barbara McGillivray is a research fellow at The Alan Turing Institute and at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests lie at the intersection between computational linguistics and historical linguistics and, more broadly, between Data Science and Digital Humanities. Her methodological contributions include the books Methods in Latin Computational Linguistics and Quantitative Historical Linguistics - A corpus framework.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Future of Digital Humanities
Marieke van Erp
In the constellation of research fields, new configurations are continuously reshaping our ideas of what a field should be. This is particularly the case in the young field of digital humanities which, as David M. Berry noted, started with a focus on improving access to digital repositories and then moved to expanding the limits of archives to include born-digital materials as research objects. Both moves greatly impacted our research practice. However, I argue that we have only started scratching the surface of what digital methods can mean for humanities research.
In particular, as our methods and collaborations with other fields have matured, we can now start imagining new types of research questions that go beyond the sum of their ‘digital’ and ‘humanities’ parts -- to fundamentally change the nature of the humanities questions that we can ask. For such a reshaping to occur, we need to deepen the connection to our academic neighbours and keep looking beyond our own research community in order to ask these new questions. In my talk, I will present how multi-disciplinary collaborations between historians, linguists, and computer scientists can bring about new insights that may form the first steps to this future.
Marieke van Erp is a researcher and team leader of the Digital Humanities Lab at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Cluster in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her research is focused on applying natural language processing in semantic web applications with a particular interest in digital humanities. She previously worked on the European NewsReader project, which was aimed at building structured indexes of events from large volumes of financial news and the CLARIAH project, a large Dutch project to develop infrastructure for humanities research.