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Welcome to .txtLAB, a digital humanities laboratory at McGill University directed by Andrew Piper. We explore the use of computational and quantitative approaches towards understanding literary and cultural phemonena in both the past and present. Our aim is to engage in critical and creative uses of the tools of network science, machine learning, or image processing to think about language, literature, and culture at both the large and small scale.
The Humanities: Theory Rich, Evidence Poor

The Humanities: Theory Rich, Evidence Poor

At some point, theory was declared over. Which was a polite way of saying we can get back to doing what we’ve always done. Which, it turns out, was theory. The humanities represent an amazing collection of individuals who have over the ages developed an extraordinary array of theories about people, the...
Why your dissertation needs data

Why your dissertation needs data

Dear Future Graduate Students, It’s that time of year to start thinking about grad school. Recruiting is not easy for me. My general sentiment around graduate training is, let them decide. Advertising or persuasion is for places like Trump University not scholarship. But I think we are at a bit of...
Latest entries
Identity: NovelTM Annual Workshop 2016

Identity: NovelTM Annual Workshop 2016

I am very pleased to announce the upcoming workshop for the NovelTM research group. This year’s theme is “Identity” and will be taking place at the Banff Research Centre in Banff, Alberta. For two days participants will meet and share new work that uses computational modelling to understand the various ways that novels construct identity...
Beyond Polarization: Studying Books, Readers, and Political Affiliation

Beyond Polarization: Studying Books, Readers, and Political Affiliation

I have a new study out with my collaborator Richard Jean So that appeared in the Guardian, which shows ways of finding cultural commonality in our age of political polarization. Using the site Goodreads, we identify collections of books that both liberals and conservatives like to read. We show how these books drive different kinds of reader behaviour, prompting...
CA Fall Preview: Food, Folklore and Lots of Novels

CA Fall Preview: Food, Folklore and Lots of Novels

We have some exciting new material that will be appearing shortly in CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics, which I thought I would share here. Dan Jurafsky, Victor Chahuneau, Bryan R. Routledge, and Noah A. Smith will have a new piece out on the relationship between food menus and social class. As they argue in their...
The Visibility of Knowledge

The Visibility of Knowledge

I am very pleased to announce that our new collaboration with Chad Wellmon and Mohamed Cheriet has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The project is called “The Visibility of Knowledge: The Computational Study of Scientific Illustration in the Nineteenth Century.” Our aim is to study how scientific knowledge became visible...
Literary Text Mining Syllabus

Literary Text Mining Syllabus

It’s that time of year and so I’m posting my latest syllabus of my data and literature class. I have found over the years that every time I create a new class I always start with too much and gradually winnow as the years go by (until there is nothing left and I teach a...
.txtLAB Internships 2016: Computational Cultural Advocacy

.txtLAB Internships 2016: Computational Cultural Advocacy

.txtLAB is pleased to offer four undergraduate internships for the coming academic year. This year’s theme is “Cultural Advocacy: Women in the Public Sphere.” The aim of the internship is to address how women are both mis-represented and under-represented in the public discourse of book reviewing. Book reviews represent a significant cultural outlet that bestow...
Is data good for creative writing? My interview with @DIYMFA Radio

Is data good for creative writing? My interview with @DIYMFA Radio

This past Spring I conducted an interview with Gabriela Pereira, host of @DIYMFA Radio. These are a fantastic series of podcasts for aspiring writers to learn more about the craft without paying enormous sums of money to attend an MFA program. In the interview, we talk about how and whether data can be useful for...
CA Is  Here

CA Is Here

I am very pleased to announce the official launch of CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics. As we state in the journal’s mission statement: Cultural Analytics is a new journal dedicated to the computational study of culture. Its aim is to promote high quality scholarship that intervenes in contemporary debates about the study of culture using computational...
How Cultural Capital Works: Prizewinning Novels, Bestsellers, and the Time of Reading

How Cultural Capital Works: Prizewinning Novels, Bestsellers, and the Time of Reading

This new essay published in Post45 is about the relationship between prizewinning novels and their economic counterparts, bestsellers. It is about the ways in which social distinction is symbolically manifested within the contemporary novel and how we read social difference through language. Not only can we observe very strong stylistic differences between bestselling and prizewinning writing,...
Why are Jane Austen's novels so popular? Her characters are introverts.

Why are Jane Austen’s novels so popular? Her characters are introverts.

As part of the work on characterization in the novel that we’ve been doing recently in the lab, I’ve come across an interesting aspect of the classic nineteenth-century novel. It turns out that female main characters are far more cogitative and perceptive than their male counterparts. However, this appears only to be true for female...
Announcing CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics

Announcing CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics

I am very pleased to announce the pending launch of CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics, an open-access web-based academic journal that will focus on the computational study of culture. CA’s mission is to use data-driven approaches towards the study of literature, culture and history. Our mandate is as capacious as it is focused: to transform...
Why do book reviews still treat women like it's the 19th Century?

Why do book reviews still treat women like it’s the 19th Century?

I have a new piece out with my collaborator Richard Jean So at The New Republic that explores gender bias in book reviews. Looking at a sample of 10,000 book reviews published in The New York Times since 2000, we found a disappointing story about how reviews of women’s books overwhelmingly skew towards family and...