Monthly Archives: August 2013

Reading with machines

This fall I will teach a First-Year Seminar on computer-assisted methods of text analysis.  Students will experiment with various digital tools to discover patterns in texts and use the results to inform their interpretations.

Students will first read the novel Candide by Voltaire in print or in eBook format.  They will then write and use computer programs  to perform various analyses (word frequencies, distributions, co-occurrences, etc.) to determine if and how computers can give them additional insights for understanding the novel.  They will finally build collections of documents to see how computers can help them discover patterns on a larger scale.

Once students become familiar with various computational techniques, they will apply them to a digital archive of Hartwick student newspapers.  They will build a website allowing users to browse and search the newspapers, and they will run computational analyses to determine recurring topics and trends among Hartwick students over many decades. The results of this research will be of interest to other students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

By experimenting with computers to read texts, students will learn the challenges and opportunities of project-oriented research in the humanities.  Much of the work in the Digital Humanities involves effective collaboration of people using machines.  Students will develop skills in working as part of team as well as applying new technologies to humanities research.

No prior experience with programming is required.  Students should have a Math Placement Test score of L2 or higher, and they should feel comfortable writing simple computer programs by following examples.

More information about the course is available here.