Old Bailey Trials Are Tabulated for Scholars Online - NYTimes.com

A digital humanities project -Datamining with Criminal Intent - is highlighted in this short piece in the New York Times (17 Aug 2011), but a methodological disagreement between scholars is revealed:

“The Old Bailey Online project has done a great service in making those sources widely (and costlessly) available,” Mr. Langbein [of Yale University] wrote in an e-mail. But he complained that the claims about data mining have “a breathless quality: ‘you can expect big things from us,’ but as yet it’s all method and no results.” He said that the new findings belittle the work of a generation of scholars who focused on the 18th century as the turning point in the evolution of the criminal justice system.

Mr. Turkel, who developed some of the digital tools, said that data mining reveals unexpected trends and connections that no one would have thought to look for before. Previous scholars “tended to cherry-pick anecdotes without having a sense that it was possible to measure all of that text and treat the whole archive as a single unit,” he said.
As articles about history go this is a juicy one, but I wonder if it creates a false polemic. Surely scholarly historical discourse will continue to accommodate both quantitative and qualitative analyses, as it has done in the past. I imagine (and hope) there is little chance of the new digital methodologies eclipsing the traditional ones. In fact, the advent of digital humanities creates excellent opportunities for the synthesis of methodologies and a deeper understanding of history (and humanity).

Old Bailey Trials Are Tabulated for Scholars Online - NYTimes.com

No comments:

Post a Comment