Category > Upcoming Talks & Events

“N + 1: A Plea for Cross-Domain Data in the Digital Humanities.” Keynote Panel on “Data, Corpora, and Stewardship,” Digital Humanities at Berkeley Summer Institute, University of California, Berkeley, 17 August 2015.

  • Abstract: In experimenting with text analysis, machine learning, visualization, and other methods, digital humanists often study materials collected from specific segments of the human documentary record–for example: a study corpus consisting just of one of the following at a time: novels, poems, letters, newspapers, historical maps, crime records, political speeches, etc. Such corpora also tend to be tuned to the specific domain of a scholar’s expertise (e.g., novels of a particular century and nation). In this short, speculative talk, Liu asks: what could be gained methodologically and theoretically by deliberately hybridizing domains–for example, pairing any two or three kinds, periods, or nationalities of materials in a controlled way? What would be involved, in other words, in giving digital humanities corpora some of the mixed quality of their uncanny doubles (alike yet dissimilar): “archives” in the strict sense and “corpora” in the corpus linguistics sense?
            The talk concludes with a presentation of aspects of the 4Humanities.org “WhatEvery1Says” research project (topic modeling public discourse about the humanities) that bear on the theme of cross-domain knowledge.


“Key Trends in Digital Humanities — How the Digital Humanities Challenge the Idea of the Humanities.” Siberian Federal University, September 2015.

  • Abstract: What are the digital humanities? And how do such key methods in the digital humanities as data mining, mapping, visualization, social network analysis, and topic modeling make an essential difference in the idea of the humanities? Using examples of digital humanities research, Alan Liu speculates on the large questions that confront the humanities in the face of computational media–most importantly, questions about the nature and function of interpretive “meaning.”


“N + 1: A Plea for Cross-Domain Data in the Digital Humanities.” Siberian Federal University, September 2015.

  • Abstract: In experimenting with text analysis, machine learning, visualization, and other methods, digital humanists often study materials collected from specific segments of the human documentary record–for example: a study corpus consisting just of one of the following at a time: novels, poems, letters, newspapers, historical maps, crime records, political speeches, etc. Such corpora also tend to be tuned to the specific domain of a scholar’s expertise (e.g., novels of a particular century and nation). In this short, speculative talk, Liu asks: what could be gained methodologically and theoretically by deliberately hybridizing domains–for example, pairing any two or three kinds, periods, or nationalities of materials in a controlled way? What would be involved, in other words, in giving digital humanities corpora some of the mixed quality of their uncanny doubles (alike yet dissimilar): “archives” in the strict sense and “corpora” in the corpus linguistics sense?
            The talk concludes with a presentation of aspects of the 4Humanities.org “WhatEvery1Says” research project (topic modeling public discourse about the humanities) that bear on the theme of cross-domain knowledge.


“Key Trends in Digital Humanities — How the Digital Humanities Challenge the Idea of the Humanities.” University of Canterbury. 28 October 2015. (Lecture delivered as a Fulbright Specialist hosted by U. Canterbury in October-November, 2015.)

  • Abstract: How do such key methods in the digital humanities as data mining, mapping, visualization, social network analysis, and topic modeling make an essential difference in the idea of the humanities, and vice versa? Using examples of digital humanities research, Alan Liu speculates on the large questions that confront the humanities in the face of computational media–most importantly, questions about the nature and function of interpretive “meaning.”


“The Future of the Humanities / The Future and the Humanities.” University of Canterbury. 5 November 2015. (Talk and workshop delivered as a Fulbright Specialist hosted by U. Canterbury in October-November, 2015.)

  • Abstract: Drawing on research and advocacy conducted by the 4humanities.org initiative that he founded, Alan Liu discusses with U. Canterbury workshop participants the contemporary public perception of the humanities. For humanities fields whose research and teaching—even when focused on present concerns of great urgency such as the environment, globalism, terror and security, race, gender, and so on—is grounded foundationally on deep historical or curatorial knowledge about the past, what is the future? What is the future of the humanities, and–positing that humanities knowledge is not just subject to political-economic forces that seem to reserve the privilege of the future just for science, technology, medical, and financial fields practicing “disruptive innovation” but can have its own shaping agency on all of us–how might the future be influenced by the continuance of a robust, if changed, humanities?


“Against the Cultural Singularity: Toward a Critical Digital Humanities.” Workshop on “Humanities Systems Infrastructure,” University of Canterbury. 12 November 2015. (Paper delivered as a Fulbright Specialist hosted by U. Canterbury in October-November, 2015.)

  • Abstract: Following up on the question asked in the title of his 2012 essay “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?”, Alan Liu will present early drafts from a book that imagines modes of cultural criticism appropriate and native to the digital humanities. His talk focuses on the role of technology in (and between) neoliberalism’s major “knowledge work” institutions (including higher education). Can digital-humanities research and development be redirected from being primarily instruments of institution work to becoming also ways to act on institutions and their wider social impact? What methodological framework can assist the making of a revisionary “enterprise technology”? What kinds of scholarship, projects, and tool-building might constitute a critical digital humanities?


“Literature+.” University of Otago. 27 November 2015.

  • Abstract: Starting with a talk by Alan Liu on his experience teaching the digital humanities in his Literature+ classes and other digital humanities classes (and on the larger issues of “hybrid pedagogy,” “MOOCs,” and “EdTech” in the background), this workshop is a chance for participants to think together about the future of teaching in the humanities. There are many past practices and formats of teaching that humanists have idealized—e.g., the tutorial on the “Oxbridge” model, the Socratic method or “dialectic” in a classical sense, the seminar, or, put in its most normalized modern mode, “class discussion”—even while humanists are caught up in such dreary antitheses to their ideal as large lecture courses titled “Introduction to …” regimented by teaching-assistant-led sections, patrolled by plagiarism-catching algorithms, and so on. How will humanist pedagogical ideals and practices adapt to the digital age? What is the relation, for example, between a Socratic seminar and either “hybrid pedagogy” or a MOOC with augmented peer-to-peer interactions?


“WhatEvery1Says About the Humanities.” University of Otago, Dunedin. 27 November 2015. (Talk delivered as a Fulbright Specialist hosted by U. Canterbury in October-November, 2015.)

  • Abstract: Drawing on research he directs for the 4humanities.org initiative, Alan Liu discusses the sociocultural context and digital-humanities methods involved in 4Humanities’s ongoing study of public discourse on the humanities. How does data mining and text analyzing large repositories of newspapers, magazines, etc., (e.g., through “topic modeling”) help put in perspective the themes–some might call them “memes”–declared in headlines about the decline of the humanities, the crisis of the humanities, etc.? What is the larger, ambient field of discourse about, and by, humanists behind those headlines? For example, what does it mean that obituaries, wedding announcements, and similar least particles of journalistic media, mention the association of people with humanities education, fields, or institutions? What does the “heat map” of hot discourse about, but also cool background radiation from, the humanities look like?


“Key Trends in Digital Humanities — How the Digital Humanities Challenge the Idea of the Humanities.” University of Victoria, Wellington. 1 December 2015. (Lecture delivered as a Fulbright Specialist hosted by U. Canterbury in October-November, 2015.)

  • Abstract: How do such key methods in the digital humanities as data mining, mapping, visualization, social network analysis, and topic modeling make an essential difference in the idea of the humanities, and vice versa? Using examples of digital humanities research, Alan Liu speculates on the large questions that confront the humanities in the face of computational media–most importantly, questions about the nature and function of interpretive “meaning.”