DSI Special Seminar: John Laudun

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

12:00pm - 1:00pm

Rockefeller Library

“Are We Not Doing Phrasing Anymore?”: Towards a Cultural Informatics

John Laudun, University of Louisiana

Recent headlines in major news outlets like the New York Times or the Chronicle of Higher Education reveal the profound suspicion with which statistical methods have been received within the humanities. The pervasive belief is that a chasm lies between statistics and the humanities that not only cannot be bridged but should not be attempted, at the risk of losing the human. And yet slowly and steadily a growing number of practitioners have not only developed research programs but also pedagogical methods that open up new analytical perspectives as well as new avenues for students to explore their relationship between the subject matter and their own understanding. This talk offers a small survey of various practices to be found in the digital humanities alongside a few experiments by the author in allowing students to experience how statistical methods in fact de-mystify the meaning-making process in language and empower students not only to ground their insights in things they can see, and count, but also, in understanding texts as nothing more than certain sequences of words, opening a path to making them better writers as well. Working from a broad survey to narrow applications, the talk suggests that concerns about a loss of humanity in the humanities is actually a concern for loss of certain kinds of authority, but that new kinds of authority are possible within which researchers and teachers will find a firm ground from which to offer interpretations and evaluations of the kinds of complex artifacts that have long been the purview of the domain.

John Laudun received his MA in literary studies from Syracuse University in 1989 and his PhD in folklore studies from the Folklore Institute at Indiana University in 1999. He was a Jacob K. Javits Fellow while at Syracuse and Indiana (1987-1992), and a MacArthur Scholar at the Indiana Center for Global Change and World Peace (1993-94). He has written grants that have been funded by the Grammy Foundation and the Louisiana Board of Regents, been a fellow with the EVIA Digital Archive and a scholar in residence with UCLA’s Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics. His book, The Amazing Crawfish Boat, is a longitudinal ethnographic study of creativity and tradition within a material folk culture domain. Laudun’s current work is in the realm of culture analytics. He is currently engaged in several collaborations with physicists and other scientists seeking to understand how texts can be modeled computationally in order to better describe functions and features.

Lunch will be served!