Humanities is such a vast field of study. And the amount of research it takes to pile up numerous accounts, facts, and historical theories and statements, oh, it’s nerve-wracking! However, digitalisation has become the solution. Before the arrival of digital tools, scholars lived in the libraries, literally for long, long hours to gather and compile the perfect set of data for writing a research paper. It costed them not only their precious time but also made them fatigued to work on their paper afterwards.
Ryan Cordell, a new assistant professor of English in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and David Smith, a new assistant professor in the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University has concocted the perfect solution.
For example, writing a paper on the role of race in 19th century literature, Ryan said, “That would require reading for years. And after all that time, he or she would have read 0.0001 percent of what was written in that era. There are limits of what you can physically read.”
After the oncoming of digital humanities, the count of resources to research from is still rising. Because it is compiling facts from all over the world, literally, and not just a sectional part of a geographical area.
“The Internet Archive has scanned more than 2 million public-domain books spanning 500 years, so we can see how language, words and syntax change over time — or look at any broad trend that exists,” said David Smith. “By turning these archives into data, we can make quantitative and replicative analysis,” he said, such as looking at how information spreads through society over time or looking at the literature to examine issues like social mobility during a particular era.
Both Smith and Cordell, are among the faculty members founding Northeastern’s new Centers for Digital Humanities and Computational Social Science, an interdisciplinary base for researchers from schools including the College of Computer and Information Science, the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the College of Science. Ryan, who has received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, has a bright background in humanities. His uncredited research into a piece of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work made him question the workings and results of a scholar’s work which usually goes unseen but the spread of such research is always welcomed anonymously.
David was previously a research assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and in 2010 received a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.
“If you don’t know what is going to be reprinted, you’re left comparing everything to everything else,” said Smith, who explained how digital-humanities methods allow researchers to turn text into searchable data, which can be organised and assessed with network-science techniques. “What you ultimately get are network maps that let us theorise how these publications were talking to one another and explain how this information spread.”
There is a lot of information over the internet that even a thousand lives aren’t enough to research on. Digitisation and humanities have become a wide subject of study in itself. Knowledge is immeasurable. But, hopefully, your research could be easier with the help of digital tools.