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New York Times on the Digital Humanities

November 18, 2010 | By Brett Bobley

On November 17th, the New York Times presented the first in a series of articles about the digital humanities. The first installment, written by Patricia Cohen, is "Digital Keys to the Humanities' Riches." The article includes interviews with several NEH project directors, including Dan Edelstein of Stanford University, who is one of the project directors of a Digging into Data Challenge grant called "Digging into the Enlightenment: Mapping the Republic of Letters." In fact, the Times also includes an excellent sidebar article which goes into some depth about the Enlightenment project that is tracing the social network of correspondence among key figures like Locke, Swift, and Voltaire by visualizing letters from the Electronic Enlightenment archive at Oxford University. This Digging into Data Challenge project is a partnership between Dan's team at Stanford, Robert McNamee's team at Oxford, and Chris Weaver's team at Oklahoma.

The article also features the Digital Mappaemundi project, funded by an NEH Start-Up Grant, that is studying medieval "maps of the world." This project is an interesting collaboration between medievalist Martin Foys (Drew University), computer scientist Shannon Bradshaw (Drew University), and art historian Asa Simon Mittmann (California State University, Chico).

Another NEH grantee featured in the Times piece is Tom Scheinfeldt, the managing director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, who recently directed an ODH Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities called "One Week | One Tool." In the article, Tom expresses his thoughts on digital humanities and describes the current age as a "methodological moment" during which new tools, techniques, and methods for scholarship are being developed in the wake of digital technology.

Peter Bajcsy, a research scientist at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications, is another Digging into Data Challenge grantee, co-directing the project "Digging into Image Data to Answer Authorship Related Questions." Peter, who works at the NCSA -- soon to be the home of Blue Waters, one of the fastest supercomputers in the world -- notes in the article that “the humanities and social sciences are the emerging domains for using high-performance computers."

There is also a terrific graphic from the "Jefferson's Travels" project, co-directed by Bill Ferster and Scot French of the University of Virginia.

Lastly, I'll note that the Times also posted a blog piece listing some of their favorite digital humanities projects, while encouraging commenters to add more. So if you have any favorites, you might want to let them know!