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Data as Critique: New Computational Approaches to the Study of Culture

Computer_CenterOn May 9th, the Global Literary Networks team will host a one-day conference bringing together new scholarship on the history and sociology of global culture. The conference highlights research that cuts across the traditional division of qualitative methods (hermeneutics, historicism) from quantitative or data-driven ones (text-mining, network analysis). A major goal of the conference is to explore how large-scale computational techniques can extend an already century old dialogue between scholars in the humanistic and social sciences (e.g., literature and linguistics; history and statistics; art and sociology).

“Data as Critique” is an opportunity to bring our project into contact with scholars from a variety of fields—including sociology, computer science, and comparative literature—who are working on related questions of scale. Some major questions we hope to explore include: how do new computational tools, such as natural language processing, alter our conception of what “texts” or cultural objects are? How can we reconcile traditional human forms of interpretation with the epistemology of computers and machine algorithms? How can we scale up analytical attention to individual aesthetic texts so as to perceive broader patterns and systems of relation and thought?

The conference will consist of two sessions: one devoted to “networks” and the other focused on “texts.”  Each session will include three presentations followed by a roundtable discussion led by two University of Chicago faculty. The goal of each roundtable will be to brainstorm and extend the ideas of the talks in an informal way, both among panelists and with the audience. In sum, the conference aims to create a space where faculty and students from the humanities, sciences, and social sciences can engage in dialogue about data as a critical method for the interpretation of culture.

For more details about the conference (including abstracts), or to register to attend, please visit the following site. The conference is funded by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. Additional funding for Global Literary Networks comes from the University of Chicago Knowledge Lab.

Participants Include:

  • Michael Bourdaghs, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Chicago
  • James Evans, Sociology, Chicago
  • Frances Ferguson, English, Chicago
  • Jacob Foster, Sociology, UCLA
  • Jennifer Lena, Sociology, Columbia
  • Hoyt Long, East Asian Languages & Civilizations, Chicago
  • Thomas McEnaney, Comparative Literature, Cornell
  • Andrew Piper, German Studies, McGill
  • Elizabeth Pontikes, Booth School of Business, Chicago
  • Richard Jean So, English, Chicago
  • Denis Tenen, English, Columbia

Posted in Announcements, Events.


Talks and Slides from MLA2014

These two talks were delivered by Hoyt and Richard at the recent MLA 2014 conference in Chicago.

The Haiku Meme: Imitation and Influence in American Modernism (slides) [session #155]

Who is Thomas Curtis Clark? Modernist Networks of Exclusion (slides) [session #233]

Thank you to Andrew Goldstone (Rutgers), Amy Hungerford (Yale), Matthew Jockers (Nebraska), Andrew Piper (McGill), Haun Saussy (Chicago), and Ted Underwood (Illinois) for making these such rich and productive sessions. Andrew Piper’s paper on “The Wertherian Exotext” can be found at his website. The responses by Ted and Haun to  our first session on “Literature at the Macroscale” can be found here and here. Slides for Andrew Goldstone’s talk, as well as a description of our second panel on “Seeing with Numbers,” are also up here.

Posted in Announcements, Papers.


MLA 2014: Literary Criticism at the Macro-Scale

The Global Literary Networks team is also doing a second panel at MLA 2014 with Andrew Piper, associate professor at McGill.  Haun Saussy (Chicago) and Ted Underwood (Illinois) will be doing the responses.  While our other panel focuses on issues specific to American modernism, this panel attends more to the relationship between comparative literature-transnational studies and “big data” computational approaches.  We’re really excited to be presenting with Haun, a distinguished scholar in comparative literature and Ted, a pioneer in computational literary criticism.  Please check out our panel abstract if you’d like to learn more.  Thanks!
MLA 2014 Macro Scale

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MLA 2014: Seeing with Numbers

At the upcoming Modern Language Association Conference in Chicago, we will be presenting new work as part of the special session Seeing with Numbers: Sociological and Macroanalytic Approaches to Literary Exclusion. The session is co-organized with Andrew Goldstone (Rutgers), who will also be presenting a paper. Amy Hungerford (Yale) and Matthew Jockers (University of Nebraska) will be serving as respondents. For details, please see the panel abstract.

Posted in Announcements.


New Publication in Boundary 2

Our article on “Network Analysis and the Sociology of Modernism” has now officially made it into print. Special thanks to the editorial staff at Boundary 2 for their help with revising the manuscript and with the layout of the gray-scale images. Color figures can be found here. Thanks also to those who have been so generous with their comments and critical feedback.

Posted in Papers.


New Working Paper on Translation Networks

We’ve just completed a new working paper titled, “Translation Networks in the World Republic of Letters” (slides are here). This paper extends our project into the study of textual circulation and diffusion, specifically as revealed through publication networks. We outline some provisional concepts for thinking about the circulation of translated material on a macro-scale, with a focus on early-twentieth-century poetic trade between the US and Japan. Because this was written as a talk, parts of the argument and much of the supporting evidence have been abbreviated. A more complete version of the paper is forthcoming. Any and all feedback is welcome!

Posted in Papers.


Toward a Sociology of Modernism: New Work on Japan

Hoyt Long recently presented some work from the Global Literary Networks project at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, held this year in San Diego. His talk introduced some of the potential applications of social network analysis for the study of avant-garde poetry movements in Japan. It also raised questions about the use of scale in literary history. The talk can be downloaded here. Thank you to Song Chen for organizing the panel, as well as to fellow panel members Jack Chen, Elijah Meeks, Stephen West, and Jamie Yoo. Thank you as well to audience members for your insightful questions, positive responses, and healthy skepticism.

Posted in Papers.


Literary Networks joins the UofC’s Inaugural Neubauer Cohort

Our project, under the title Global Literary Networks, has been selected to join the Neubauer Collegium’s inaugural cohort of research grants. The news was officially announced today. Here’s a description of the project, which will get underway in the fall of 2013:

Global Literary Networks is a two-year digital humanities research project that examines the production, diffusion, and reception of literature on a macro-interpretative scale using tools of network analysis and network visualization. Combining large datasets, social scientific methods, and textual close reading, this project investigates the social dimensions of modernist literary history and aesthetics in the twentieth century by de-framing traditional literary categories – such as influence and dissemination – and introducing and adapting new categories from other disciplines. Using modernist poetry from the United States as the starting point, the project branches out to Japan, China, and Latin America to track the relation between modernist poetic activities in different national contexts. The project brings together theoreticians and technicians from literary studies, sociology, computer science, statistics, and visual design to explore new approaches to the analysis, preservation, and presentation of “big data”; new media platforms for processing, displaying, and disseminating digitally inflected work; and team-based scholarship.

Posted in Announcements.


Humanities Day Lecture

Back in October, we presented a general overview of our work at the annual University of Chicago Humanities Day. We had a good crowd of prospective students, alumni, and other interested people from the community. The lecture is now available on youtube. If you’re interested in hearing about our project first-hand, and about other digitally-enhanced research taking place at U of C, please have a look.

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Our First Essay

We have recently finished a preprint version of our first collaborative essay, to be published in Boundary 2 next year. You can find it in our list of publications, but we wanted to put a link upfront. The essay, “Network Analysis and the Sociology of Modernism,” provides an introduction into the kind of work we are doing and also serves as a proof-of-concept for further inquiry. We welcome any and all feedback!

Posted in Announcements.