[ECAR Summer 2008] Vernon Burton – Keeping Up with the E-Joneses in Humanities and Social Science Computing

Vernon Burton is Professor and DIrector of I-CHASS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our culture makes us look at things differently – humanities and social sciences vs. computer science. When they talk they think they know what each other are saying, but they often don’t. He started out using computers in the 1970s … Continue reading “[ECAR Summer 2008] Vernon Burton – Keeping Up with the E-Joneses in Humanities and Social Science Computing”

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Vernon Burton is Professor and DIrector of I-CHASS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Our culture makes us look at things differently – humanities and social sciences vs. computer science. When they talk they think they know what each other are saying, but they often don’t.

He started out using computers in the 1970s to analyze census and tax records in a large southern community – was banished to running his jobs between midnight and 4 am.

Narrative historians in the 70s despised the computer. Even though historians have moved away from quantitative techniques, ease of use of software and information is encouraging students to search out quantitative methods. In the last decade humanities computing has come into its own. The web has provided access to lots of the humanities record. In 1993 the humanists who saw the Mosaic browser went wild.

He notes that there’s a great need for cyberinfrastructure in the arts and humanities, but that departments can’t afford to build it themselves. So it makes sense for there to be hubs of this activity – one is I-CHASS that he directs.

He cites an example of one of his grad students who’s studying the gentrification effect of gay and lesbian couples moving into neighborhoods – using digital mapping technologies with census data to study that. He says that’s the future of research in the humanities, but we’re not training historians for that kind of research.

He talks about SEASR – http://seasr.org/ – which provides cyberinfrastructure for the humanities.

inscriptifact.ncsa.uiuc.edu/

Cartography of american colonization database

Unicorn: toward enhanced understanding of virtual manuscripts on the grid. – he’s got real questions about the value of the grid efforts – not driven by the scholars themselves. The scholars don’t even have enough support for the use of normal technologies. But this is a model project for a grid use in humanities.

ageoflincoln.com – his book, which contains “augmented reality” 3d content.

HistorySpace – information rich virtual environments for historical scholarship.

Enhanced Knowledge Discovery for Social Science – representing the views of underrepresented populations. Tools for automating data analysis to pull quantifiable data from multiple sources.

E(d)2 – Emancipating Digital Data: Scanning and Image Analysis of the Lincoln Papers – http://isda.ncsa.uiuc.edu/lpapers

Vernon makes the point that what won the world wars weren’t the generals, but the farm boys from the Midwest and South who knew how to make things work with bailing wire when needed, and that’s what we need for humanities and social sciences now – folks who work between the scholars and the computer scientists to make things happen. We also need to develop new models for publication and sharing of knowledge.

[Bamboo Workshop 1a] Introductions

Project brings together a number of different communities supporting research and academic innovation. Institutional teams – 2-5 participants per institution, including arts/humanities faculty, IT, library reps. It’s to be a Community Design process – this workshop is to be a “listening tour”, guided by a framework of broad goals and a commitment to action. Janet … Continue reading “[Bamboo Workshop 1a] Introductions”

Project brings together a number of different communities supporting research and academic innovation.

Institutional teams – 2-5 participants per institution, including arts/humanities faculty, IT, library reps.

It’s to be a Community Design process – this workshop is to be a “listening tour”, guided by a framework of broad goals and a commitment to action. Janet Broughton calls it an “upward spiral of conversation”. Looking for a search for commonalities – common needs where investment and effort will make sense.

Chris Mackey notes that there’s going to be a lot of sausage making going on in this project, and the end results are not likely to be elegant and clean, but could be really useful.

Mellon is interested in the diversity of participation in this project, including community colleges and liberal arts colleges. They are excited about the possibility of an implementation project down the road.

Arts & Humanities are different from the sciences. One way is that you can find world-class researchers in nooks and crannies, unlike in, say, high energy physics. What does an indigenous a&h cyberinfrastructure look like?

In Mellon’s experience so far, the smaller institutions have more than held their own, and often act as leading indicators of new and interesting sets of issues.

We’ll spend the next two days trying to understand how humanists work and to build out lists of scholarly practices in the arts and humanities with a series of exercises and quick talks (4 minutes of presentation, 6 minutes of questions max).

The question is raised about places in the humanities where digital scholarship is problematic and perceived as not leading to tenure. The organizers are cognizant of the issue, but hopeful that it won’t dominate the discussion. Kathleen Woodward notes that the Bamboo Project itself helps lend legitimacy to digital scholarship at our institutions.

Now on to the reception and dinner!

A really interesting travel week

I’m traveling this week to two different meetings, that somehow seem thematically related. The first is the initial workshop for Project Bamboo, which is: Bamboo is a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, and inter-organizational effort that brings together researchers in arts and humanities, computer scientists, information scientists, librarians, and campus information technologists to tackle the question: How can … Continue reading “A really interesting travel week”

I’m traveling this week to two different meetings, that somehow seem thematically related.

The first is the initial workshop for Project Bamboo, which is:

Bamboo is a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, and inter-organizational effort that brings together researchers in arts and humanities, computer scientists, information scientists, librarians, and campus information technologists to tackle the question:
How can we advance arts and humanities research through the development of shared technology services?
and then Thursday I’m heading to New Orleans with a crew from KEXP for a meeting about the possibility of creating a national alliance of independent music radio stations.
So what’s the relation? Well, if KEXP is at all indicative of what independent music stations are up to, they are producing an incredible storehouse for research in popular culture in present day society, through a rich archive of interviews, live performances, playlists, and the like.
And the fact that we’ll be hosted in New Orleans by WWOZ during the second weekend of Jazzfest is pretty sweet too! More blogging as we go!