1,068 Matching Annotations
  1. Jul 2017
    1. novels about nineteenth-century London set against novels about nineteenth-century Paris

      "I'd love to see that visualization", I thought. So I tried using bookworm to come up with something akin to that. I posted it in the #offtopic slack!

    2. We should invest in tools and forms of analysis that look critically at big data from multiple sources about the history and future of our institutions and societies.

      Yes, we should and yes we can! By looking to the past and critically assessing the changes, trends and patterns that have arisen with the new tools available; the present day and future institutions/societies can move forward progressively, learning from past mistakes ect.

    3. resisting the powerful pull of received mythology

      Can someone explain this further?

    4. we need experts who are willing to talk about our data in aggregate over the longue durée, to examine and compare the data around us, to weed out what is irrelevant and contrived, and to explain why and how they do so. History can serve as the arbiter here: it can put neo-liberalism, creation, and the environment on the same page; it can help undergraduates to negotiate their way through political and economic ideologies to a sensitivity of the culture of argumentation of many experts and the claims upon which their data rest.

      This seems overly optimistic; longue duree, by taking such a wide view of the past, might in fact airbrush the distinctions and exceptions out of our understanding of the past, imposing its own sort of dogmatism. Moreover, history (though not necessarily GOOD history) has often been used to justify dogmatic thinking and totalitarian regimes, as well as simplistic methods of thinking about other people generally (think of how many people still think of Indigenous peoples today as the "noble savages" documented in Canadian history).

    5. subaltern voices through the integration of micro-archives within the digitised record of the longue durée form a new and vitally important frontier of scholarship. That immense labour, and the critical thinking behind it, deserves to be recognised and rewarded through specially curated publications, grants, and prizes aimed at scholars who address the institutional work of the longue-durée micro-archive.

      The gap between subaltern histories and longue-duree is not an easy divide to bridge. I wonder how subaltern historians view digital data. The author of this article is very optimistic about the possibilities of big data, but I bet historians who have worked with some of the most frustrating biases and oppressive realities of data collection might have other views of big data.

    6. Historians are the ideal reviewers of digital tools like Ngrams or Paper Machines, the critics who can tell where the data came from, which questions they can answer and which they cannot.

      Arguably not, as demonstrated by the quotation from The Historian's Macroscope in which Google Ngram's project leaders described how far behind the historians they worked with were in theorizing digital methods of handling big data. Even if philosophically historians could be the best arbiters of big data, practically, they are not.

    7. They are putting the data about inequality and policy and ecosystems on the same page, and reducing big noise to one causally complex story.62

      Again: it cannot be said that all historians do this, or at least do it well enough to set history above other disciplines in the development of theories for dealing with big data.

    8. Biologists deal with biology; economists with economics. But historians are almost always historians of something; they find themselves asking where the data came from – and wondering how good they are, even (or especially) if they came from another historian.

      I don't agree with the implication that other disciplines are inherently less self-critical than history. While it's true that history is usually seen as constant revision whereas sciences (even social sciences) are seen as fields built upon earlier work, there is a danger in imagining that all historians are inherently self-critical and not caught up in trends within their discipline. In fact, the very concept of the paradigm shift suggests that science does, at times, completely revolutionize its ideas.

    9. noticing institutional bias in the data, thinking about where data come from, comparing data of different kinds, resisting the powerful pull of received mythology, and understanding that there are different kinds of causes.

      Great overview of the important skills of a historian - I will keep these in mind as I go forward.

    10. We have been navigating the future by the numbers, but we may not have been paying sufficient attention to when the numbers come from. It is vital that an information society whose data come from different points in time has arbiters of information trained to work with time.

      This is fascinating and goes beyond digital history. It challenges fundamental parts of our interaction with the modern world, especially the informational world.

    11. Still more importantly, discussion of adaptation among academics is hardly a metric of political action in the outside world.

      This is a REALLY IMPORTANT point. Data does not mean what you want it to mean. That's not good scholarship. There are many degrees of separation between academic discourse and political action, and these must be considered and accounted for before drawing conclusions. This may seem obvious, but clearly sometimes the sparkle of big data blinds people to obvious gaps in arguments.

    12. the moral implications of forms of history that evolve to answer real-world and practical problems.

      I will keep this in mind as I continue my readings. It's refreshing that digital history, unlike some more traditional methodologies, emphasizes the presence of history.

    13. Rich information can help to illuminate the deliberate silences in the archive, shining the light onto parts of the government that some would rather the public not see. These are the Dark Archives, archives that do not just wait around for the researcher to visit, but which rather have to be built by reading what has been declassified or removed.

      I've done a lot of reading on archival theory during the past year or so. The "Dark Archive," while it sounds really dramatic, is actually a very exciting and important concept.

    14. the watchword of the fundable project must be extensibility

      Any ideas for what this could mean to us as undergraduates?

    15. As historians begin to look at longer and longer time-scales, quantitative data collected by governments over the centuries begin to offer important metrics for showing how the experiences of community and opportunity can change from one generation to the next.

      These sources might not always be relevant to historical inquiry - or they might be inadequate to answer specific questions. We must remain conscious that, although lots of new data is out there, not all of it is relevant to all projects.

    16. Traditional research, limited by the sheer breadth of the non- digitised archive and the time necessary to sort through it, becomes easily shackled to histories of institutions and actors in power

      I have definitely experienced this. For example, when I wanted to see how women have contributed the archival of private papers, I was forced to limit myself to the papers of "great men," and then further to a case study of the papers of Sir John A. Macdonald, in order to produce any coherent results. I wonder how digital methods could have expanded the scope of my research or even turned it in a new direction entirely.

    17. They may help us to decide the hierarchy of causality – which events mark watershed moments in their history, and which are merely part of a larger pattern.

      Fascinating. I love discussions of continuity vs revolution. I never considered how big data could be used to find previously unnoticed incidences of continuity and divergence. I can imagine that it could be useful in studies of, say, the French Revolution, or women's entry into the workplace. How much did things actually change?

    1. how many trips to Ottawa could be saved if we took this injunction to heart, and began sharing our research notes at a minimum

      I wonder how Carleton's history department feels about this? We tout the "capital advantage," after all.

    2. The value of our work is too wrapped up in the scarcity of sources themselves, rather than just the narratives that we weave with them.

      This is an interesting point. Archival research is a huge pain; it's part of the labour of the traditional historian. But perhaps some of the labour of the modern/digital historian ought to be reworking the system and making archival visits less necessary by depositing their research online. Yes, it's work. But it's necessary upkeep. If IT guys never took the time to update office computers past Windows 95, then they're going to have to fix a lot more busted computers. If historians never update archival material to digital formats, they're going to have to visit a lot more archives.

    1. My notes for both projects are available in an open-access wiki.

      He definitely aligns his work with his philosophy of open-source notes. I'm interested in exploring his notes on Henrietta Wood.

      EDIT: Aaaah, it seems to be down. ):

    1. Unlike Open Notebook Scientists, our motive for providing our data will have less to do with a desire to make our experiments reproducible, and more to do with a belief that historical arguments are on a fundamental level irreproducible. Each one is the product of a particular person or group of people at a particular time and place

      This is so fascinating. It reminds me of Drucker's argument that all "data" are "capta." Every piece of knowledge has its context, and historians must be particularly aware of these contexts. By sharing notebooks, historians allow others to see how their view of the past developed. It opens the historian as well as his work up to scrutiny, but it also enriches the field generally. It seems like a worthy exercise in professional- and, for many, personal - vulnerability.

    2. “Linking” items together on a website is not just a means of facilitating browsing; it is also a machine-readable way of doing what historians do all the time when we “link” sources, ideas, concepts and arguments together. The link, as Gardner Campbell has eloquently explained, is a powerful way to “symbolize ideas about relationship” and thus to symbolize the act of higher-order cognition itself.

      Has anyone else played The Wiki Game? You race another person to travel between two random Wikipedia pages just by clicking links. This part of the post reminded me of that game, and made me understand just how incredible it is that a game like that exists. We have so much knowledge, which we link together, which creates more knowledge, and so on forever and ever. No wonder big data has emerged along with the web. Even without user-generated content, the act of linking causes a deluge of data.

    3. The truth is that we often don’t realize the value of what we have until someone else sees it. By inviting others to see our work in progress, we also open new avenues of interpretation, uncover new linkages between things we would otherwise have persisted in seeing as unconnected

      What an incredible point. I think of all the articles linked in this module, this one convinced me the most of the need for open-source notebooks and made me excited about learning how to "branch" and "pull" and "push" project on GitHub.

    4. enable historians to easily share information about our research as it happens.

      I love this idea. I grew up living and breathing blogs and message boards. In my time at university, however, I've gotten comfortable enough with traditional academic practice that applying the interactive, open-source nature of the internet to scholarly work doesn't occur naturally to me. Even when I wrote a blog for my research project last summer, I didn't share the bulk of my research notes online.

  2. www.trevorowens.org www.trevorowens.org
    1. The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation (forthcoming)

      He's put his publishing where his mouth is. This book will hopefully provide ideas on how to make the kind of online footnoting he discusses more feasible.

    1. as simple as clicking a link what do we think will turn up everyone else’s footnotes?

      This would also make the work of other historians (and history students, cough cough) much easier: footnotes lead to useful primary and secondary sources that can help guide a historian beginning a related project. If more sources were easily accessible online, more scholarship could be done.

    2. Peter Novik suggested that Abraham’s sloppiness was not a isolated case, but instead one of the only times a historians footnotes were so rigorously fact checked.

      I don't doubt it. Look, I try my best, but when I'm in crunch time for a paper, I always feel a momentary burning desire to give up on the footnotes. Then I talk to my classmates about it, and turns out that every single history student has that moment. I'm sure some professional historians have it, too; at least, they have a "good enough" moment, and their scholarship remains incomplete but unquestioned. That's not even mentioning misinterpretations and mistakes in the actual analysis, which pose far bigger problems, as Abraham's case shows.

    3. For quite sometime historians have been concerned with questions of ideology, arguments about which historical-isms are the best for a given task. Tom, suggests that new media tools (like text mining) challenge historians to consider methodological questions anew.

      This is what makes digital history so exciting - and one of the biggest challenges to me. I've been taught that history is mostly combing through text, and sometimes, occasionally, analyzing a photo or an artifact. Today, however, history can encompass so much more. I want to be open to new methodologies and. more importantly, to get excited about them.

    1. we do not have the same theoretical framework within which to understand how to read a space, a place, an object, or the inside of a pregnant cow

      That I can barely even imagine how to do ANY of this speaks to how far we have to go in this field.

    2. there is an assumption about the character of the 'truth' the data gives us access to

      Again, this is something I find deeply unsatisfying about digital history and "big data." I'm glad to see that professional digital humanists have already begun to consider this conflict between the subjectivity of historical narrative and the assumed (but unreal) "objectivity" of data.

    3. In most cases, we were studying 'text', and text alone - with its at least ambiguous relationship to either the mind of the author (whatever that is), and certainly an ambiguous relationship to the world the author inhabited.

      My own interests are very biased towards "text;" I expect to go through similar difficulties as I try to move beyond text to explore place, time, sound, sensation, etc. in my historical work.

    4. Projects like the Virtual St Paul's Cross, which allows you to ‘hear’ John Donne’s sermons from the 1620s, from different vantage points around the square, changes how we imagine them, and moves from ‘text’ to something much more complex, and powerful.

      This sounds INCREDIBLE. This is the one of the "reconstruction" DH projects that has captured my imagination. I'm mostly annotating this to explore it at a later date. I would love to do work like this.

    5. by simply thinking of the trials as ‘topics’; and I suspect you would find similar results.

      How exactly could this be done? My understanding so far is that topic modelling is mostly based on linguistic proximity and frequency of words. I would be interesting to see trials as "topics" rather than thematic groupings of words - or perhaps a "theme" would emerge from each trial?

    6. Ben Schmidt’s analysis of the dialogue in Mad Men, in which he compares the language deployed by the scriptwriters against the corpus of text published in that particular year drawn from Google books.

      What a brilliant use of digital history methods! I would love to do this for, say, Downton Abbey. It would, of course, have to take into account that people do not necessarily talk the same way writers write. Still, Schmidt seems to have drawn some reasonable conclusions from his data.

    1.  I hope that Deb Verhoeven’s truth to power / real talk was recorded and becomes available soon (now available).

      I LOVED Deb Verhoeven's talk. "I want 80% women, 20% blokes for the next 30 years." I also love her suggestion that digital historians who fit into a space of privilege mentor an aspiring digital historian who does not. Amplify new voices!

    1. The Digital Humanities—and by inclusion, Digital History—cannot be a playground for the privileged. Letting it become so will undo decades of important work done in the humanities to listen for and amplify the voices of those who are too often ignored.

      This is a driving factor of my interest in digital history. If we are on the forefront of a new field, then I want to make sure marginalized peoples are acknowledged and encouraged from the very beginning.

    2. Thankfully, in this digital age, our book is a living document. Rather than putting our hands up in frustration over errors and omissions, we can continuously publish updates, corrections, and new content as necessary.

      "Failing productively," I see! This is the best part of digital resources, in my view. I love that this shortcoming of the book has been acknowledged and, if not corrected, at least supplemented. The power of hyperlinks to provide external articles vetted by the authors of the Macroscope are also a great resource.

    1. the results of data processing were used in an inferential rather than explanatory way.

      I expect to be able to use digital history in a similar fashion.

    2. As you will see, ‘visible’ is probably a better word for this as there is nothing ‘hard’ about the Digital History on offer: it doesn’t tell any truths, it doesn’t solve any problems, it doesn’t sit outside of interpretation. Rather – much like any abstraction from primary sources – it does work that I found useful.

      I like the phrase "abstraction from primary sources". It reminds me that we all use some form of processing on the data we capture from primary sources - for example, organizing names of battle sites into a list, or making a table of trade voyages. In this case, the abstraction is on a larger scale and produced with new methods, but it can still be used for the same purpose as traditional abstractions.

    1. they helped orientate and shape my thinking rather than provide ‘results’ that I analysed, interpreted, and/or presented in the book.

      I have often come across sources and methods like this - aspects of a topic that don't make it into the final product, but help direct future research. I like that the blog format makes it possible to reveal, in well-organized blog posts, these aspects of research.

    1. How can we use historical knowledge in the present day, from informing policy decisions, to inspiring marginalized communities, or to simply tell entertaining stories?

      This is, as noted, an important question to ask in any practice of history. Its inclusion here, however, forces me to consider how I can use digital history specifically to answer this question. Can I use computational tools to, say, tell the story of a movement rather than of a single individual? Of a population or community rather than a household? I think digital history will force me to look at larger trends, which is a good change from the close reading I have gotten used to.

    1. There is a huge difference between “here is an interesting way of thinking about this” and “This evidence supports this claim.”

      This really helps me contextualize how "big data" can impact my own work. I don't need to change my fields of interest; only change how I look at them now that more data and computational power are available to me.

    2. History is not merely a reconstructive exercise, but also a practice of narrative writing and creation.[5]

      This is critical to my experience writing history. I'm glad to see the issue raised here.

    1. Python

      I'm in the VERY EARLY stages of learning Python (like, a few stages above "Hello, world!") I'm having trouble imagining how the basic lines of code I am writing can eventually lead to complex programs, especially programs that help me do history. If anyone has any advice, resources, or reassurances, let me know.

    1. Historians need to begin to think computationally now so that our profession is ready to access this data in the next generation.

      I've thought before about future historians poring over my more unique Tumblr blog posts, but I'd never considered the limitations of digital storage as a historical database. I'm interested in the idea that we need to make changes to how we see digital data in the present in order to make history more accessible in the future.

    1. Yet we realize that they need to be critically studied, as they have come from divergent disciplines and domains.

      As an undergraduate, it's exciting to be introduced to these kinds of open-ended academic questions. I love the idea that just by doing digital history, I can help progress scholarship.

    2. Digital history, for one, sits closer to the public humanities than many of its counterparts.

      What does this mean? Is this a reference to the prevalence of online exhibits, etc, that overlap with public history? Is it a reference to the tendency of digital historians to be more public-facing than, say, digital literary scholars?

    3. A potential downside, however, was that computational history became associated with quantitative studies. This was not aided by some of the hyperbole that saw computational history as making more substantial “truth” claims, or the invocation of a “scientific method” of history.[12]

      As someone who is VERY MUCH AGAINST the scientific history claims, this is something I will be on the watch for in my own work.

    4. Fernand Braudel

      I was introduced to his work in my Historical Theory class, and I always found his concept of the longue duree very confusing. I can see how it fits in with digital history and big data, but as a philosophical approach to history, it goes over my head. If anyone is a Braudel expert, feel free to comment.

    5. Busa conceived of a series of cards, which would – he estimated – number thirteen million in total.[3] It would be his Index Thomisticus, a new way to understand the works of St. Thomas Aquinas.

      This is incredibly forward-thinking. I wonder how many projects thought impossible in the past could be implemented using modern technology, or technology still to come? How many abandoned ideas can be resurrected?

    1. ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

      This is SO COOL. As much as I like textual analysis, I would love to be able to work on a project like this someday. Go play with this one.

    2. But they didn’t seem to have a good sense of how to yield quantitative data to answer questions,

      Same, Google-reject historians. Same.

    3. Even digitized newspapers, which on the face of it would seem to be excellent resources, are not without serious issues at the level of the OCR

      This will be good to keep in mind when we all work on the "hastily-scanned" newspapers for our final project.

    4. One often unspoken tenet of digital history is that very simple methods can produce incredibly compelling results, and the Google Ngrams tool exemplifies this idea.[14]

      Also important for our final project! I have no idea yet how I want to work with the newspaper records; I hope we can all give each other ideas as we work through the course content.

    5. through comparing differences in documents (using Normalized Compression Distance, or the standard tools that compress files on your computer) one can get the database to suggest trials that are structurally similar to the one a user is currently viewing.

      I would like to know more about this - how does the computer define "structurally similar"? How reliable are the results? How can they be used? I assume that after finding "structurally similar" trials, a historian would have to do some analysis in order to determine whether the trials were similar in other significant regards. Does this undermine the value of the technology? Is it only useful as a search-and-find tool?

  3. www.themacroscope.org www.themacroscope.org
    1. (“the great unread”),[1]

      As a double major in English and History (with an eye on an English masters), this aspect of digital humanities is particularly fascinating to me. I look forward to using the techniques I learn here to practice some "distant reading" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/books/review/the-mechanic-muse-what-is-distant-reading.html)

    1. through expansion: the ability to extract complex knowledge from the smallest crumbs of evidence that history has left behind.

      This is how I have become used to doing history. I'm so used to it, in fact, that the idea of looking at history from any other perspective is immediately confusing to me. That's why it's so fascinating to consider the difference between a "microscope" and a "macroscope" in regards to history: the value of the macroscope is evident, but I'm curious as to how exactly I can apply it to historical work. (I suppose this class is the place to find out.)

    1. We have to be cognizant of the sociology of digital production, and the ways that -for instance- the heavily white male demographic that encodes the tools and platforms make hidden value judgements about what is important.

      I can already tell - as someone who only just barely understands basic statistics and "big data" - that this aspect of digital history will be one of the most fascinating to me (unless, of course, something else catches my eye during the course).

    2. Empathy - they write with care and consideration for these lives in the past. That is to say, they recognize the ‘why’ of what happens without retrojecting current mores onto actors in the past

      I'm very glad to see this included, and so high up on the list. This has always been my goal in writing non-digital history; I hope I can explore it further in the digital realm.

  4. Jun 2017
    1. didn’t need to analyse every aspect of every print to make my case

      he did not have to use all of the aspects from the big data he was working with

    1. rather my thinking

      Relating back to the definition of the macroscope this makes a lot of sense. Compression of this information allowed the researcher here to create a clear relation/pattern from his information.

    1. Macroscopes are not bound by time, but rather quantity.

      This made macroscope make sense to me!