“50,000 Books but only Six Stories: A Macroanalysis of Plot"
Matthew Jockers, USM Libra Scholar
Public Lecture - April 17th, 7:00-8:30 p.m., Talbot Auditorium, USM Portland Campus
This event is co-sponsored by the Departments of English, History, Political Science, Media and Communication Studies, Women & Gender Studies, Faculty Commons, and Professional & Continuing Education.
Digital technologies are impacting almost all spheres of education and social life, from the kindergarten teaching of reading to graduate programs in cyber security, from drones to deliver pizza to drones that have become a global symbol of America’s war on terrorism. We now have access not to a text or dozens of texts, but to hundreds and thousands and millions of texts, which can be tagged, encoded, and made available for computational analysis and scholarly research. This raises important questions: What kinds of evidence do computational analyses of the humanities yield? What is the nature of this evidence, and what kinds of insights can such evidence offer in shaping our understanding of literature, history, philology, macroeconomics, statistics, public policy, software languages, and the social and behavioral sciences?
In his public lecture, Professor Matthew Jockers will discuss why quantitative methods are appropriate for humanistic inquiry. His methodology “macroanalysis” emphasizes that “massive digital corpora offer us unprecedented access to the literary record and invite, even demand, a new type of evidence gathering and meaning making.” Macroanalysis is not about replacing microanalysis or close reading of texts or data sets, but it is about understanding that reading and interpretation today can also mean creating digital archives using text encoding processes, mining those databases for patterns and trends with computational logic, and visualizing vast data sets storing millions of bytes of information and a variety of media texts. Professor Jockers will discuss how he employed tools and techniques from natural language processing, sentiment analysis, signal processing, and machine learning in order to extract and compare the plot structures in 50,000 narratives spanning the two hundred year period from 1800-2011.
Grounded in the exciting new field of digital studies, Professor Jockers’ work offers research approaches that are applicable to nearly all disciplines. In his lecture, he will also comment on the broad significance of digital technologies in higher education.
Professor Matthew Jockers is Assistant Professor of English, Faculty Fellow in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, and Director of the Nebraska Literary Lab at the University of Nebraska. He oversees UNL’s post baccalaureate Certificate in Digital Humanities, and he serves as the faculty advisor for the minor in Digital Humanities. Prior to Nebraska, Jockers was a Lecturer and Academic Technology Specialist in the Department of English at Stanford where he co-founded the Stanford Literary Lab with Franco Moretti, a leading scholar in English Studies and the Digital Humanities.
Jockers’s research is focused on computational approaches to the study of literature, especially large collections of literature. He has written articles on computational text analysis, authorship attribution, Irish and Irish-American literature, and he has co-authored several successful amicus briefs defending the fair and transformative use of digital text. Jockers's work has been profiled in the academic and main stream press including features in the New York Times, Nature, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Nautilus, Wired, New Scientist, Smithsonian, NBC News and many others.