New Digital Humanities Technique

30 05 2011

Robert K. Nelson, who is the director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, has applied a new digital humanities technique to the study of Confederate propaganda in the American Civil War. (His study was based on the Daily Dispatch, a newspaper in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy). Needless to say,  this technique could easily be applied to a vast number of other historical subjects.

Nelson explained how topic modeling works in a recent post on the Disunion blog of the New York Times.

Topic modeling is a probabilistic, statistical method that can uncover themes and categories in amounts of text so large that they cannot be read by any individual human being. Applied to the Dispatch for the entirety of the war, topic modeling enables us to see both broad and subtle patterns in the Civil War news that we would otherwise be unable to detect. It also helps historians quickly detect the larger themes addressed in individual articles and then trace those themes in other documents, even through the entirety of a large paper like the Dispatch.

Read more here.  Nelson blogged about data mining earlier here at Academic Commons.





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