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#ComputerScience and #DigitalHumanities

Posted on December 8th, 2016

PRINCETON #ACM / #IEEE-CS CHAPTERS DECEMBER 2016 JOINT MEETING

12/08/2016 @Princeton University Computer Science Building, Small Auditorium, Room CS 105, Olden and William Streets, Princeton NJ

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Brian Kernighan @Princeton University spoke about how computers can assist in understanding research topics in the humanities.

He started by presenting examples of web sites with interactive tools for exploring historical material

  1. Explore a northern and a southern town during the Civil War: http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/
  2. Expedia for a traveler across ancient Roman: http://orbis.stanford.edu/
  3. The court records in London from 1674-1913: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/
  4. Hemingway and other literary stars in Paris from the records of Sylvia Beach

Brian then talked about the challenges of converting the archival data: digitize, meta tag, store, query, present results, make available to the public

In preparation for teaching a class this fall on digital humanities, he talked about his experience extracting information from a genealogy based on the descendents of Nicholas Cady (https://archive.org/details/descendantsofnic01alle) in the U.S. from 1645 to 1910. He talked about the challenges of standard OCR transcription of page images to text: dropped characters and misplaced entries. There were then the challenges of understanding the abbreviations in the birth and death dates for individuals and the limitations of off-the-shelf software to highlight important relations in the data.

Brian highlighted some facts derived from the data:

  1. Mortality in the first five years of life was very high
  2. Names of children within a family were often recycled if an earlier child had died very young

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