[Milton-L] RE: Culturomics? Genome?

Thomas H. Luxon Thomas.H.Luxon at dartmouth.edu
Sun Dec 19 08:35:05 EST 2010


Will do Richard. I'm traveling Tom Glasgow tomorrow; no doubt there will be plenty of time. 

Tom

Sent from my iPhone

On Dec 18, 2010, at 11:34 PM, "richard strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu> wrote:

> I repeat my suggestion that Tom write up some sort of letter to these folks, and 
> then gather signatures to it from the rest of us, so the thing would come to 
> them with the voice of a whole community of scholars behind it.
> 
> 
> ---- Original message ----
>> Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2010 15:46:21 -0500
>> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu (on behalf of "Thomas H. Luxon" 
> <Thomas.H.Luxon at dartmouth.edu>)
>> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] RE: Culturomics? Genome?  
>> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>> Cc: "C. Robertson McClung" <C.Robertson.McClung at dartmouth.edu>
>> 
>> 
>> On Dec 17, 2010, at 7:54 PM, Jameela Lares wrote:
>> 
>>> I suppose one rejoinder would be to study the report of the scientists to see 
> if they used any word at all that was not in a standard dictionary.
>> 
>> Jameela,
>> 
>> I am studying their report right now.  They report, for example, that the word 
> "aridification" appears in no standard dictionary.  It is true that it does not 
> appear in the OED, but of course "aridify" does. These scientists apparently do 
> not understand how dictionaries work; they depend on a user's knowledge of 
> roots and nominalizations. BTW, "aridification" does have a wikipedia article 
> devoted to it.
>> 
>> The scientists listed for this article include no linguists, no literary scholars 
> and no socio-linguists. These people are making claims about their ability to 
> answer questions and problems in linguistics, cultural criticism, history and 
> literary studies without showing a shred of evidence that they know anything, or 
> have read anything, in these fields.  The arrogance is astonishing, might I even 
> say admirably astonishing. I have an appreciation of ups-manship, though I find 
> it has no scholarly value.
>> 
>> They claim to have invented a whole new mode of cultural analysis—
> culturomics:
>> 
>> <blockquote>Culturomics is the application of high-throughput data
>> collection and analysis to the study of human culture. Books
>> are a beginning, but we must also incorporate newspapers
>> (29), manuscripts (30), maps (31), artwork (32), and a myriad
>> of other human creations (33, 34). Of course, many voices –
>> already lost to time – lie forever beyond our reach.
>> Culturomic results are a new type of evidence in the
>> humanities. As with fossils of ancient creatures, the challenge
>> of culturomics lies in the interpretation of this evidence.</blockquote> (page 
> 5 of Jen-Baptist Miche et al, "Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of 
> Digitized Books")
>> 
>> But they have done this without doing any homework into existing modes of 
> cultural or linguistic analysis. They appear to have assumed that was not 
> necessary, because that work has not been done in what they call a "scientific" 
> (i.e. quantitative) manner.  They are wrong to assume that, arrogantly wrong.
>> 
>> Jean-Baptiste Michel, the lead author, is a post-doc in Psychology at Harvard 
> (http://www-test.iq.harvard.edu/people/jean_baptiste_michel). He is part of the 
> Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard.
>> 
>> This work has been described by linguist Geoffrey Nunberg as "arrogant" and 
> "almost embarrassingly crude."  I would remove the "almost" and agree. It is 
> also opportunistically irresponsible, in a word, bad science.
>> 
>> Thomas H. Luxon
>> Dartmouth College
>> 
>> 
>> 
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