Can you trust machines to make decisions on your behalf? You’re doing it already, when you trust the results of a search engine or follow directions on your phone or read news on social media that confirms your worldview. It’s so natural that you forget it’s artificial; someone programmed a machine to make it happen. If Arthur C. Clarke is right (“any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), we’re living in the age of magical thinking.
I’m giving a talk on the University of Calgary campus (in SS 1015) on Friday December 2, 2016 at 3:15pm.
Unnatural Language and Natural Thinking: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries
Critics of computational text-analysis tend to perceive its focus on language patterns as a flattening of qualitative texts into quantifiable patterns. They’re right. But a text’s linguistic operating-system deserves close scrutiny when it reveals features of the text that a human reader can’t perceive, or when it flags evidence beyond our capacity to gather. The Augmented Criticism Lab has developed algorithms to detect features of repetition and variation in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries (starting with drama, namely the Folger’s Digital Anthology). We’ve begun with features like rhetorical figures that repeat lemmas (heed, heedful, heeding) or morphemes (heeding, wringing, vexing). We use natural-language processing to gather evidence of these unnatural formulations, to ask whether they signal natural habits of thought. The interpretive payoff is our ability to make more definitive arguments not just about these figures, but also about underlying cognitive habits.
This paper describes our process and our corpus, and presents a range of our results with this initial corpus before we expand to the billion words in the EEBO-TCP corpus (1473-1700).
For more information about the Augmented Criticism Lab, visit < acriticismlab.org >.
Are you interested in doing graduate work in the digital humanities at the University of Calgary? Or just want to learn more about what we’re doing in this field?
Drop me a line. I’m accepting graduate students (MA and PhD) for Fall 2017.
Faculty here at the University of Calgary are topic-modelling sci-fi archives and using computers to analyze Shakespeare’s language patterns. In the Department of English we digitize, deform, and interpret texts, to develop new methods of digital philology; and we work with computer scientists to quantify, process, and visualize texts to uncover social, cultural, political, and historical trends.
If shaping the future of the humanities appeals to you, consider applying to the Department of English to do your graduate work in this field. The application deadline is December 10, 2016 for admission in Fall 2016.
- Here’s some info about who I am, and the kind of research I do — including the Augmented Criticism Lab.
- Here’s a recent talk I gave on the state of Digital Humanities at the University of Calgary, featuring the research and teaching of many colleagues in the Faculty of Arts (scroll to the 4th slide), and our collaborations with the library and the Department of Computer Science.
- See here for detailed information about the Department of English graduate program.
Contact me for details, or to ask questions:
This is a brief post, to highlight the work of my students this past term in a directed-study course in the digital humanities. Aaron Ellsworth and Will Best have each undertaken research projects, and have published a series of blog posts on their processes and their results. (Click on each name for each series.)
Do you get the feeling that your computer could be doing more work for you, instead of making you do more work? Are you curious about how the Digital Humanities can support your research, teaching, and dissemination?
The Digital Humanities (DH) Summer Insitute @ Congress 2016 is a series of 2.5-hour workshops for scholars, staff, and students interested in a hands-on introduction to DH tools, techniques and methods:
In April 2016, Stephen Childs (OIA) and Michael Ullyot (Faculty of Arts) are launching an interest group for anyone at the University of Calgary interested in computational text-analysis. These include natural language processing, corpus linguistics, topic modelling, qualitative analysis, or any other statistical or quantitative approach to qualitative texts. We envision a group meeting once or twice per term to discuss individual projects/methods and to collaborate on projects of joint interest.
Calgary (Canada), May 29-June 1, 2016
[Cross-posted from the CSDH/SCHN website.]
We encourage submissions on all topics relating to both theory and practice in the evolving field of the digital humanities.