Big Data and Uncertainty in the Humanities

Fall Digital Humanities Forum
20-22 September 2012
Lawrence, Kansas

This conference seeks to address the opportunities and challenges humanistic scholars face with the ubiquity and exponential growth of new web-based data sources (e.g. electronic texts, social media, and audiovisual materials) and digital methods (e.g. information visualization, text markup, crowdsourcing metadata).

“Big data” is any dataset that is too large to be analyzable with traditional means (whether e.g. manual close readings or database queries). Developments in cloud computing, data management, and analytics mean that humanists and allied scholars can analyze and visualize larger patterns in big data sets. With these opportunities come the challenges of scale and interpretation; we have moved from the uncertainty resulting from having too little data to the uncertainty implicit in large amounts of data.

What does this mean for how humanists structure, query, analyze and visualize data? How does this change the questions we ask and the interpretations we assign? How do we combine the best of a macro (larger-pattern) and a micro (close reading) approach? And how is interpretative and other uncertainty modeled?

The Forum consists of three separate but related programs held over three days:

  • Day One (Thursday, September 20) / Forum Workshops
    A set of in-depth, hands on workshops on digital humanities tools and topics such as GIS, data visualization, text markup and annotation, and creating online digital exhibits.
  • Day Two (Friday, September 21) / THATCamp Kansas 2012
    An “unconference” for technologists and humanists, with conversations about topics defined on-site by the participants.
  • Day Three (Saturday, September 22) / Big Data and Uncertainty in the Humanities
    A one-day program of panels and poster sessions showcasing digital humanities projects and research.

Plenary speakers at the Forum include:

  • Kari Kraus, Assistant Professor, College of Information Studies and the Department of English at the University of Maryland
  • Geoffrey Rockwell, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta, Canada

For more information and the full schedule of speakers and workshops, please see the main website for the DH Forum.