Bringing the Past into Context:
Dr. Jo Guldi and the Digital Humanities

 Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Newly appointed Assistant Professor of History Dr. Jo Guldi studies political economy, landscape, and culture in modern Britain and its empire. Setting her research apart is an emphasis on using computer programs to review large bodies of texts, a process known as text mining, and a focus on a longer period of time than typical. Dr. Guldi is also leading nine Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute (DCII) Graduate Fellows to help them learn to use data in their own research, as well as the lecture series “Data is Made Up of Stories.”

To make her research possible, Dr. Guldi works with data scientists and computational technology to review these large bodies of texts. Through text mining, she is able to identify trends and movements across long periods of time using statistical models to examine similarities or differences within the texts, essentially turning them into data for analysis. Text mining gives researchers the ability to harness methods from statistics, mathematics, computer science, and linguistics, applying them to literature, social history, psychology, or any number of fields.

Dr. Guldi elaborated, “Historians have questions about how people change their ideas over time. People in literature might be interested in how different authors compare with each other, how different genres compare with each other. People in psychology might be interested in word usage; do we talk more about ourselves, or do we talk more about other people, or our circumstances? We can mine different aspects of texts over an enormous scale using these computational techniques. If we are able to get to a body of methods that can be generalized for different disciplines, it’s going to be an enormously useful endeavor for a number of researchers across different fields.”

“Data is Made Up of Stories,” overseen by Dr. Guldi and offered through the DCII, illustrates just how text mining is useful across different disciplines. The next lecture will take place on Monday, November 7 and feature Emory University’s Dr. David Eltis, presenting on the Transatlantic Slave Trade using GIS and mapping techniques. To learn more and to RSVP, please click here.

Dr. Andrew Sempere, Principal of Digital Scenographic, and Anindita Basu Sempere, doctoral candidate with the Université de Neuchâtel's Institute of English Studies, will speak on Monday, December 5. They will present a case study of the Summer of Darkness iOS app, a digital humanities project that tells the story of “The Year Without Summer” through real-time notifications, weather animations, and excerpts of letters, journals, and literary works by Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori. The event is free; please visit the event page to RSVP and learn more. 

To close the series this semester, the nine DCII Fellows will present their own research on Tuesday, December 13 from 12:00-3:00 p.m.