Forum planned on Big Data, technology in the humanities

LAWRENCE — The idea of "big data" — massive datasets too large to be easily processed by common methods — is normally associated with marketing and business (think Facebook) or with transformations in the way research is conducted in the sciences. But what does big data mean for the humanities? That is one of the questions that this week's Digital Humanities Forum at the University of Kansas will explore. Organized by KU's Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities (IDRH), the three-day forum, Sept. 20-22 at Watson Library and the Kansas Union, will provide opportunities for scholars and students to share examples of computational humanities research, participate in hands-on workshops and discuss research in the digital age.

“Computational approaches are common in the sciences but relatively new in the humanities," said Brian Rosenblum, co-director of IDRH and associate librarian for digital scholarship at KU Libraries."Yet the increasing availability of massive collections of books, newspapers, images, audio and other materials, combined with the development of accessible tools for managing and analyzing those sources, means computationally-based approaches are growing in the humanities. When you have collections such as the HathiTrust digital library, with over 10.5 million full-text volumes in digital format, a computational approach is the only way to get a handle on all of the data.”

The forum, the second annual organized by IDRH, will bring together more than 90 participants from KU and around the country, including several high-profile national speakers and instructors. "The program is designed to have something for everyone, from seasoned digital humanists to newcomers to the field," said Rosenblum.

The forum will start Sept. 20 with a series of workshops on text analysis, data visualization, building web exhibits and teaching digital humanities in the classroom.

Sept. 21 will be devoted to THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp), a popular "unconference" format started at George Mason University.

The forum will continue Sept. 22 with a full-day schedule of presentations showcasing digital humanities projects and research.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Greg Crane, professor of classics, Tufts University, and head of the Perseus Digital Library: "The Humanities in a Digital Age," 4:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at Watson Library
  • Geoffrey Rockwell, professor of philosophy and humanities computing, University of Alberta: "False Positives: Opportunities and Dangers in Big Text Analysis," 4:30 p.m. Sept. 21, Watson Library
  • Kari Kraus, assistant professor, College of Information Studies and the Department of English, University of Maryland: “Phylogenetic Futures: Big Data and Design Fiction,” 11:15 a.m. Sept. 22, Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union.

Participation in the Forum is free. Space is limited and registration required for the Workshops and THATCamp events. For more information and the full schedule see the website or contact