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Starting this month, I’m moving from New Jersey to do a fellowship at the Harvard Cultural Observatory. This should be a very interesting place to spend the next year, and I’m very grateful to JB Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden for the opportunity to work on an ongoing and obviously ambitious digital humanities project. A few thoughts on the shift from Princeton to Cambridge:
In writing about openness and the ngrams database, I found it hard not to reflect a little bit about the role of copyright in all this. I’ve called 1922 the year digital history ends before; for the kind of work I want to see, it’s nearly an insuperable barrier, and it’s one I think not enough non-tech-savvy humanists think about. So let me dig in a little.
Patricia Cohen’s new article about the digital humanities doesn’t come with the rafts of crotchety comments the first one did, so unlike last time I’m not in a defensive crouch. To the contrary: I’m thrilled and grateful that Dan Cohen, the main subject of the article, took the time in his moment in the sun to link to me. The article itself is really good, not just because the Cohen-Gibbs Victorian project is so exciting, but because P. Cohen gets some thoughtful comments and the NYT graphic designers, as always, do a great job. So I just want to focus on the Google connection for now, and then I’ll post my versions of the charts the Times published.
I’m going to start using this blog to work through some issues in finding useful applications for digital history. (Interesting applications? Applications at all?)
Right now, that means trying to figure out how to use large amounts of textual data to draw conclusions or refine questions. I currently have the Internet Archive’s OCRed text files for about 30,000 books by large American publishers from 1830 to 1920. I’ve done this partly to help with my own research, and partly to try a different way of thinking about history and the texts we read.