In this talk Ted Underwood will use science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and the Gothic to explore the advantages of an approach that asks data science to contribute to the humanities by adding perspectival flexibility, rather than sheer scale. Underwood trained predictive models of these genres using ground truth drawn from various sources and periods (19c reviewers, early 20c bibliographies, contemporary librarians), in order to explore how implicit assumptions about genre consolidate or change across time.
Ted Underwood teaches in the School of Information Sciences and the English Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He was trained as a Romanticist and now applies machine learning to large digital collections. His most recent book, Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (University of Chicago, Spring 2019) addresses new perspectives opened up by large digital libraries. Underwood’s contributions to Representations include Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago and Stories of Parallel Lives and the Status Anxieties of Contemporary Historicism.
Black Futures: On Race in Art, Curation, and Digital Engagement
with Kimberly Drew in conversation with Stephen Best
Arts + Design Mondays @ BAMPFA
Monday, October 16, 6:30pm
2155 Center Street, Berkeley
Kimberly Drew has been dubbed an “international tastemaker in contemporary art” on account of her Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art and her Instagram @museummammy. As social media manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she has been pivotal in moving that venerated institution in directions both democratic and dialogical. Drew will discuss curation, social media, race, and institutions with UC Berkeley professor Stephen Best.
Kimberly Drew is a writer and curator based in New York City. Drew received her BA from Smith College in art history and African-American studies, with a concentration in museum studies. She first experienced the art world as an intern in the director’s office of the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she was inspired her to start her blog and to pursue her interest in social media as it relates to the arts.
A member of the Representations editorial board, Stephen Best is an associate professor of English at UC Berkeley and the author of The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession, a study of property, poetics, and legal hermeneutics in nineteenth-century American literary and legal culture. He co-convened a research group at the University of California’s Humanities Research Institute on “Redress in Law, Literature, and Social Thought” that led, in part, to the special issue “Redress” in 2005. He is also the co-editor of the 2009 special issue “The Way We Read Now” and the 2016 volume “Description Across Disciplines.”
Ted Underwood, contributor to Representations‘ recent special forum Search, continues his engagement with digital questions on his own blog, The Stone and the Shell, with
Distant Reading and the Blurry Edges of Genre.
Having just spent two years attempting to subdivide an entire digital library by genre, Underwood encountered some interesting problems. “In particular, the problem of ‘dividing a library by genre,’” he says, “has made me realize that literary studies is constituted by exclusions that are a bit larger and more arbitrary than I used to think.”
Underwood’s contribution to the Representations Search forum, Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago, asks what it means to say that search plays an “evidentiary role in scholarship”:
“Quantitative methods have been central to the humanities since scholars began relying on full-text search to map archives. But the intellectual implications of search technology are rendered opaque by humanists’ habit of considering algorithms as arbitrary tools. To reflect more philosophically, and creatively, on the hermeneutic options available to us, humanists may need to converse with disciplines that understand algorithms as principled epistemological theories. We need computer science, in other words, not as a source of tools but as a theoretical interlocutor.”
Full text of this article can be found here.
CURRENT ISSUE OFFERS SPECIAL FEATURE ON THE SEARCH
According to the forum’s introduction:
“This forum began with a conversation among editorial board members about what Representations might have to say in response to recent discussions about the nature and future of digital work in the humanities and social sciences. We wanted to think both about recent developments in the use of databases, search tools, and digital means of presenting and disseminating research as well as about the larger social and historical contexts behind these new applications of technology. We also considered some of the claims made about these technologies as well as the structure of the debate that has begun to rise up around them. As different search engines and online resources (Google, the Internet Archive, Google Books, Project Gutenberg, EEBO [Early English Books Online], and so on) have become more and more prominent, assessments of their value often seem to take opposed forms, with advocates for the transformative power of big data lining up on one side and those who think technology is mostly a distraction on the other. Rather than taking either side, we invited several writers to consider the historical and cultural conditions that have made this impasse possible….”
“The forum’s contributors look at several different aspects of what stands as the center of these debates for both dedicated specialists and scholars with only the most general of relations to technology: the homely search. How, in the face of new and more powerful tools, has searching for data changed? Is there a culture or cultures of search that differ from or repeat the terms of earlier moments in scholarly culture? To what degree do specific economies of searching reproduce other economic realities or fantasies? What stands logistically, aesthetically, ethically behind the act of searching for data?…”
“We hope these short essays will contribute to ongoing debates in and around digital technology in the humanities and social sciences and show how understanding the politics, the economics, and the mechanics of searching can help us better understand hidden aspects of the work we have been doing all along.” –Kent Puckett
FREDERIC KAPLAN Linguistic Capitalism and Algorithmic Mediation
TED UNDERWOOD Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago
LISA GITELMAN Searching and Thinking About Searching JSTOR
DANIEL ROSENBERG Stop, Words
LEAH PRICE Response