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Welcome to .txtLAB, a laboratory for cultural analytics at McGill University directed by Andrew Piper. We explore the use of computational and quantitative approaches towards understanding literature and culture 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 large and small scale.
Author Archive
Data, data, data. Why Katherine Bode's new piece is so important and why it gets so much wrong about the field

Data, data, data. Why Katherine Bode’s new piece is so important and why it gets so much wrong about the field

Katherine Bode has written an excellent new piece asking us to reflect more on the data we use for computational literary studies. Her argument is that many of the current data sets available, which rely on date of first publication as a criteria for selection, miss the more socially imbedded ways literary texts have circulated...
Congratulations to this year's students!

Congratulations to this year’s students!

We have had an excellent year at .txtLAB. I want to send out a special thanks to all of the students who have been contributing to the lab. You’ve made it a great place to work. Here is a list of projects that we’ve been working on this year: studying the ambiguity surrounding social interactions...
Just Review, a student led project on gender bias in book reviewing

Just Review, a student led project on gender bias in book reviewing

For years, women have been aware that their books are less likely to get reviewed in the popular press and they are also less likely to serve as reviewers of books. Projects like VIDA and CWILA were started to combat this kind of exclusion. Over time they have managed to make some change happen in the industry....
The Eleanor and Park Challenge

The Eleanor and Park Challenge

Eleanor & Park is a beautiful young adult novel about two kids who fall in love after meeting, as so many kids do, on the school bus. It also contains a perfect challenge for the computational study of culture. Think of it as an alternative to the Turing test. Here’s the back story. We’ve begun studying...
Connectivity. A Conference

Connectivity. A Conference

Looking forward to this event tomorrow. Bringing together researchers from different disciplines to develop models of cultural connectivity. Connectivity has become the dominant framework through which contemporary knowledge is increasingly understood. From networks to clouds to close reading to reconstructing historical social worlds, making connections is at the core of what academics are expected to do. And...
Is Open Science a Neo-Liberal Tool? Here's why not.

Is Open Science a Neo-Liberal Tool? Here’s why not.

Last week Philip Mirowski gave a spirited polemic at Concordia University called, “What is Open Science supposed to fix?” Openness has become the new buzzword du jour. Who would be against openness? But do we really know what this word means? Over the course of an hour Mirowski made the case that open science is nothing less...
LIWC for Literature: Releasing Data on 25,000 Documents

LIWC for Literature: Releasing Data on 25,000 Documents

Increasing emphasis is being placed in the humanities on sharing data. Projects like the Open Syllabus Project, for example, have made a tremendous effort in discovering, collecting, and cleaning large amounts of data relevant to humanities research. Much of our data, however, is still locked-up behind copyright and paywalls within university libraries, even when the underlying...
Congratulations to Eva Portelance ARIA Intern for 2016

Congratulations to Eva Portelance ARIA Intern for 2016

Eva Portelance presented her work this past week that was completed under an Arts Undergraduate Research Internship (ARIA). Her project focuses on the computational detection of narrative frames. It involves three steps that include a theoretical definition of a frame, writing code to detect narrative frames and comparing those to existing methods of text segmentation, and...
Academic Prestige and Publishing

Academic Prestige and Publishing

Very excited to announce the acceptance of a new article co-authored with Chad Wellmon that will be appearing in Critical Inquiry. The article, “Publication, Power, and Patronage: On Inequality and Academic Publishing,” addresses the unequal concentration of elite institutions within prominent humanities journals. Our goal is to begin to shed light on the academic publication system with a...
Culture + Computation: New Syllabus in Cultural Analytics LLCU 614

Culture + Computation: New Syllabus in Cultural Analytics LLCU 614

  I am pleased to add this year’s syllabus for my graduate course, “LLCU 614, Cultural Analytics: The Computational Study of Culture.” The aim of the course is twofold: 1) to introduce students in the humanities to the computational and quantitative methods for studying culture in order to move beyond the use of anecdotal evidence and...
Fictionality

Fictionality

I am pleased to announce the publication of a new piece I have written that appears today in CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics. The aim of the piece is to take a first look at the ways in which fictional language distinguishes itself from non-fiction using computational approaches. When authors set out to write an...
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 past, creativity, and social life....