Osiern’s Weblog

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Reading Response

Posted by osiern on November 3, 2008

This post is in response to my recent reading of  “Googling the Victorians” and the American Council of Learned Societies’ cyberinfrastructure report.

One of the fundamental questions in the Cyberinfrastructure report asks, “What is cyberinfrastructure?

The basic argument presented in this report is that the humanities are different than math, science, and technology.   The humanities require a combination of hardware, software, and professional expertise that is of a different nature than those of the sciences.  Cyberinfrastructure basically combines the three elements and creates a way for individuals working in the humanities to participate in the digital world.

This report is trying to get organizations (universities, government, and private companies), professors, and professionals in the humanities to come together and get the ball rolling at a quicker pace.  They suggest that various organizations get involved with projects to digitize and create software that will be useful for humanities based work/research.  They suggest that grants are awarded for those with the determination and knowledge to create new media projects for the humanities.  They are pushing for innovation so that the world of the humanities can expand beyond paper.

In “Googling the Victorians” the positives and challenges of digital research are discussed.  It’s remarkable to the author how quickly he can search and how much more data he can gather in such a short amount of time.  He also enjoyed the social networking he was able to do which would have been very difficult or costly before, vastly speeding up and adding value to his research.

A point where these texts converge in combination with, Peter Norvig’s lecture, “Theorizing from Data,” is on searching.  In “Googling the Victorians,” Leary discusses how he needed to know a certain amount about the Victorian Period in order to retrieve appropriate information.  Norvig discusses how search terms work and how they can be completely off base at times, based on what the user has put in and how the software is designed.  The report discusses how humanities professionals are used to searching in certain ways with humanities centric thought patterns.  The ability to search on the web is great and is often my quick method to find data, however the user needs to know how to search appropriately.  I believe that using the report suggestions more humanities friendly software can be developed and instruction on how to search a topic can be provided.  Leary is correct that the more knowledge you have about a topic the more fruitful your search will be, therefore old fashion research needs to continue, but we can also develop better digital humanities research.

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