Review: Digital Humanities 2011, Stanford

Digital Humanities Conference, Stanford University, June 2011

Conal Tuohy and myself recently attended the Digital Humanities conference 2011 at Stanford University in California (19-22 June). In its 23rd year, the conference is the peak conference for the application of computing to humanities research with the numerous digital humanities associations holding their annual general meetings at the event.  Papers range from encyclopaedias in the study of Egyptology, to the computational study of linguistic-style in medieval texts, to the creation of digital editions of early modern texts.   Many of the panels and papers at the conference also included a ‘community building’ aspect such as teaching digital humanities, the digital humanities and alternative academic careers, and funding the digital humanities.   The keynotes at the conference were particularly impressive and included Dr Chad Gaffield, President of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada on Re-Imaging Scholarship in the Digital Age, David Rumsey on Reading Historical Maps Digitally, and JB Michel and Erez Liberman-Aiden, the developers of Google’s N-Gram viewer, on the quantitative analysis of millions of digitised books.

Chad Gafffield, President of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada delivering the annual Zampoli Prize Lecture on 'Re-imagining Scholarship in the Digital Age

And as the conference has its roots in literary and linguistic computing, it is perhaps not surprising that there is a strong representation of papers dealing with issues of encoding and computational analysis of text. Geoffrey Rockwell, from the University of Alberta in Canada, discussed corpus linguistics; or the study of the entire collection of works on any given subject using computational techniques. Rather that enter a digital corpus by a facsimile, as is lamentably the case with many digitisation projects in the humanities, Rockwell discussed ways to enter a  corpus using ‘corpus interfaces’ and search and analysis tools that are better placed to impart multifaceted understandings of the nature of the human record as it interfaces with the computer.

The next Digital Humanities conference is to be held at the University of Hamburg in July 2012.

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