Published: Jan. 26, 2017

The Exploring Digital Humanities series welcomes Miriam Posner of UCLA: The Humanities Scholar, the Meanings of Data, and the Radical Potential of Miriam PosnerDigital Humanities, Thursday February 2, 5:30pm in Norlin Library N410.

Digital humanists have no particular problem talking about data. We use it, trade it, and think about it constantly. Many "traditional" humanists, though, bristle at the notion that their sources constitute “data.” And yet humanists work with evidence, and they speak of proving their claims. So is this just a problem of terminology? I'll argue in this talk that our data trouble is more substantial than we’ve acknowledged. The term "data" seems alien to the humanities not just because humanists aren't used to computers, but because it exposes some very real differences in the way humanists and scholars from some other fields conceive of the work they do.

In this talk, I’ll outline the specific points of tension between the notion of data and the ways that humanists work with sources, and I’ll explain why I think this epistemological divide actually suggests some incredibly interesting avenues of investigation. In particular, could humanities scholars bring their concern with nuance and uncertainty to the data discussion? What would maps and data visualizations look like if they were built to show us categories like race or gender as they have been experienced, not as they have been captured and advanced by businesses and governments?

Miriam Posner coordinates and teaches in the Digital Humanities program at UCLA. She got her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 2011, and has emerged as one of the best-known practitioners of and commentators on digital humanities; her commentaries on the field have appeared in the Journal of Digital Humanities and elsewhere, and she has given several talks at a variety of conferences and workshops as well as invited talks at several universities. She also serves on the executive committee of the Association for Computers and the Humanities. 

The Exploring Digital Humanities series is organized by the Department of History and the University Libraries. Co-sponsors: President's Fund for the Humanities, Center for Humanities and the Arts, Institute for Behavioral Sciences, Center for Research Data and Digital Scholarship, Institute for Cognitive Science, Faculty Teaching Excellence Program, Departments of English, Computer Science, Philosophy, Linguistics, Art and Art History, Political Science, and Anthropology