Google Translate is an excellent example of the foray of machine learning into languages. Can we extend this notion into the study of the humanities in general?

Enter the digital humanities. There has been a lot of enthusiasm on how technology will open up new avenues of research, as well as increase research funding towards cash-strapped departments, in the humanities.

However there is still no satisfactory answer to what comprises the digital humanities. It encompasses “anything from media studies to electronic art, from data mining to edutech, from scholarly editing to anarchic blogging.”

A technology-centered approach also raises the following questions:

1. Online repository of work

Do resource-limited English departments have resources for specialists – programmers, curators, librarians – needed to make the digital humanities project come together? Would a humanist be required to learn how to program?

2. Scientific method vs. humanist approach

How well will the focus on close reading, or engagement with minute nuances of a text, adapt to a shift towards analyzing large quantities of material? Can the scientific method be applied to a field that prizes the scholar’s imagination and sense of reality?

Adam Kirsch, writing in the New Republic, suggests a more measured approach. Perhaps such concerns reflect the broader concern with Big Data – with these powerful tools, what question are we looking to answer?

Read the full article here.

In conjunction with Big Data Week, we compiled a list of the best Big Data articles here.

(Image credit: Trey Ratcliff)

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