Yesterday Micki Kaufman came to CHNM to deliver a presentation on her dissertation, “Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me”: Quantifying Kissinger. Her presentation was fascinating, and her use of digital methods was eye-opening. What I found particularly interesting was the subtext that ran through both the presentation and the question-and-answer session about how various specializations/professions view and analyze information; in particular, how historians, librarians, and digital historians/humanists do so. This was especially evident when she was discussing the computer-generated and human-generated list of topics found within the documents after running them through topic modeling software. Historians may or may not find that one use of Cambodia in a document of use to them, but librarians have to list Cambodia as a subject because the associated metadata is intended to show the breadth of the document. Another interesting point I took away from the presentation was that digital methods don’t have to solely be a methodology. The use of digital methods can also be epistemological in nature. The way Micki approached her research is fundamentally different from how historians have traditionally operated. Rather than going into the archive with a prepared set of questions, Micki took all of the documents from the archive and, using digital methodologies, discovered what the documents were telling her. A question I think should now be approached is how to reconcile the epistemology of digital history with that of traditional history. Do the two have to remain separate from one another? How can we, as digital historians, make it easier for traditionally-minded historians to adapt digital methodologies into their research?
I also live-tweeted Micki’s presentation, as did other staff members at the Center. My thoughts and opinions on tweeting as a form of scholarly communication have not changed since my November post on the same topic. Twitter continues to be an excellent platform for scholars, and is an easy way to remain up-to-date with the happenings in the DH world. I especially like using Twitter for presentations and conferences because my tweets can serve as my own notes and simultaneously I am making information available to the general public.