2018-2019: Cultivating Princeton's Data Landscape
What does it mean to treat poetry, brain scans and library borrowing records alike as “data”? Today, we analyze rich and complicated data produced in the humanities at scale with computational tools such as natural language processing, network analysis, and machine learning. Likewise, data scientists rely on humanists for political and historical context that helps make their work more equitable and just. During 2018-19, the Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) dedicated its energies to bringing various disciplinary voices at Princeton together to examine how data is transforming our academic fields and our society. We called this initiative “Year of Data,” and held over twenty events — lectures, symposia, conferences, workshops — with campus partners in the humanities, arts, data and computer science, social science, and library and archives.
The Year of Data engaged Princeton students and scholars in demonstrating a core CDH belief: that technology can act in the service of humanity and the humanities can enable the creation of better technology. In all of the work we do, the CDH aims to cultivate connections across diverse groups on campus. We raise awareness of cultural nuances and the implications of our increasingly data-driven world. We encourage creativity at the intersection of humanistic study and computational methods, and we pride ourselves on our national reputation for best practices in technical research and design. In the following pages it’s our pleasure to share stories of select Year of Data events as well as ongoing CDH programs that best exemplify our work. We also describe two major research partnership projects the CDH launched in 2018-19 — Derrida’s Margins and the Princeton Prosody Archive — that set new standards for digital humanities research and software development.
It was my own research as an English professor collecting data about historical poetics that planted the seeds for the establishment of Princeton’s CDH in 2014. The success of Year of Data showcases the impact we’ve made in our first five years. As we rely increasingly on data in our scholarship, across Princeton’s campus, and in our daily lives, the CDH will continue to advance new ideas and significant scholarship at the intersection of the humanities and technology.
Associate Professor, Department of English
Faculty Director, Center for Digital Humanities