Following on the success of the first “Early Modern Digital Agendas” institute—an intensive survey of the most current resources and methods in digital research to be found in July 2013—"Advanced Topics" was a second three-week NEH institute hosted by the Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Jonathan Hope, Professor of Literary Linguistics at the University of Strathclyde, directed an advanced exploration of data creation and management followed by various forms of hands-on investigation, including text analytics, social network analysis, dimensionality reduction, research process design, and even historical reflection on the nature of "exemplarity" claims in humanistic argument. It was supported by a $175,000 Institutes for Advanced Topics grant from the NEH's Office of Digital Humanities.
The “Early Modern Digital Agendas: Advanced Topics” Institute met from 15 June through 1 July 2015, and admitted participants were in residence for the entire time. It convened a technically advanced cohort of fifteen early modern digital humanists for scholarly assessment of the most effective tools by which data sets are gathered, curated, and analyzed. EMDA2015 built in more time than its predecessor for application and experimentation with the tools to which its participants were introduced; it also encouraged participants to bring their own data and, as often as was practical, process that data for analysis with the tools that the visiting faculty introduced. Details about the Institute's curriculum are available.
Participants reflected on the ways DH expands the universe of possible questions that literary scholars can ask while new technologies produce exponentially larger bodies of evidence faster than ever before. Among the questions visiting faculty posed and considered with the participants: What is "data"? What transformations lie behind statistical analysis? How is corpus-wide variation being treated? What are the principles of visualization? The aim was to enable participants not just to perform analysis, or curate data, but to understand the processes they engage in—where they enable, how they restrict, and how they might be improved. It remains the Folger's goal to ensure that DH practitioners question not only what is possible with digital tools, but why one would put them to certain uses, and at what costs.
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