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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.
Cultural Inequality
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...
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...
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...
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 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...
Do Creative Writing Degrees Impact the Contemporary Novel?

Do Creative Writing Degrees Impact the Contemporary Novel?

I have a new piece out in The Atlantic with Richard Jean So. The piece addresses recent debates as to whether MFA programs have had a major impact on contemporary novels. The short version is that there is very little evidence to suggest any major differences between novels written by authors with MFA degrees and...