I stumbled across this video in my attempts to learn more about textual analysis, big data and digital humanities. It’s extremely interesting – especially after the half-way mark – and well worth the 17 minutes.
It emphasizes the fact that in the present information age, humans and machines are capable of working together to achieve results inaccessible to either one in isolation. It struck me that this same human-machine cooperation is at the heart of programs like the “Serendip-o-matic,” although this is clearly on a much smaller scale than something like Quid. Quid is also more enthusiastic about its commercial applications than its scholarly ones. But I can’t help seeing the potential of this type of software for historical studies. What if we could take our reams of primary sources and use big data analysis to visualize global relationships in the past as well as in the present? Could we identify patterns throughout the centuries? Could we use this to better accomplish what historians generally aim to do – study the past to improve the future? What are the limitations of big data, the questions it cannot answer? And how do we prevent this data from being exploited?
I hope you enjoy the video. No matter what you think of digital humanities, this TEDx talk does a good job of demonstrating that the capabilities of today’s computers are incredible – with the right humans to guide them.