Invited Talk

Ted Underwood

Ted  is a Professor of Information Science and English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has published widely on quantitative approaches to literary history, with articles in New Literary History, Cultural Analytics, Representations, and Modern Language Quarterly. His research currently focuses on questions about literary character, and ways of using machine learning to compare situated historical perspectives. In 2019, the University of Chicago Press will publish his next book, Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change.

Measurement and Human Perspective

Researchers who use quantitative methods to study culture may find themselves torn between two approaches to knowledge. Quantitative disciplines often value generalizable methods that make different frames of reference comparable. But humanists have long insisted that knowledge about culture is irreducibly perspectival, relative to a particular vantage point. Of course, the tension between these two approaches is not exactly a contradiction. Contemporary quantitative methods are sometimes flexible enough to incorporate varied human perspectives as elements of a model. This talk will describe a few recent projects that have attempted perspectival modeling, and reflect on opportunities for further research.