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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.
On Prestige Bias in the Chronicle of Higher Ed

On Prestige Bias in the Chronicle of Higher Ed

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a version of our essay on the concentration of institutional prestige as its cover story this week. In it we expand our reflections about how to change the current system. The essay is based on our original piece that appeared in Critical Inquiry. Here...
Think Small: On Literary Modelling

Think Small: On Literary Modelling

This is the name of a new piece I have out in PMLA in a section called “Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading.” The first point I try to make is that calling it “Moretti’s Distant Reading” is indicative of literary studies’ continued penchant for great men. It is ironic, or telling,...
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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....
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 a crossroads in our field...
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 Long Nineteenth Century.” Our aim is to study how scientific knowledge became...
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...