e-History - New trends in eHumanities

1. Peter Hook, Indiana University and 2. Susan Legêne, VU University Amsterdam


March 22, 2012


22 March
1. Peter Hook, Indiana University

The Structure of Law: Domain Maps from 40,000 Course-Coupling Events and a History of an Academic Discipline
The structure of the academic discipline of law in the United States has never been empirically determined and mapped spatially. While it has been described in essays and other writings on the history of law school education, it has never been revealed through the exploration of large datasets and determined through replicable, objective means. This work seeks to answer whether course-coupling analysis produces topic maps that are consistent with expert opinion and other indicia of the topical similarity of law school course subjects. Course-coupling is defined as the same professor teaching multiple, different courses over one academic year as reflected in the annual directories of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS). Multidimensional scaling (MDS) is used to distribute course subjects in a two-dimensional mapping so that they may be quickly perceived by the viewer using the distance-similarity metaphor. Five academic years, spaced roughly once a decade from 1931-32 until 1972-73, are mapped and these maps are compared to data produced by 18 experts that completed a card sort exercise of contemporary legal courses. The resulting visualizations lend support to the assertion that faculty members teach courses that are topically related and that course-coupling analysis is a valid technique to make maps of a domain.

Peter A. Hook is a doctoral student at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he is a member of Dr. Katy Börner’s Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center and Information Visualization Laboratory. He has a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Kansas (1997) and an M.S.LIS from The University of Illinois (2000). He is also an academic law librarian at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. His primary research focus is information visualization and domain mapping. In general, he is interested in utilizing knowledge infrastructures to obtain big picture, global perspectives. These allow a novice to more quickly become familiar with a domain and experts to contextualize their research in a broader perspective. Domain maps also reveal avenues of inquiry previously unknown to a researcher as well as opportunities for collaboration. Hook’s particular interests include the visualization of knowledge organization systems, concept mapping, and the spatial navigation of bibliographic data in which the underlying structural organization of the domain is conveyed to the user. Additional interests include social network theory, knowledge organization systems, scientometrics, legal informatics, and legal bibliography.

(Presentation slides)

2. Susan Legêne, VU University Amsterdam

e-History: tools, tales or a philosophy of history
On 24 June 2010, the new KNAW Institute Huygens/ING or Huygens Institute for Netherlandic History was launched. In his introductory speech, the historian Wijnand Mijnhardt, chair of the ING Advisory Board, expressed his high expectations of e-History. Finally, he said, history would become an exact science, with exact repeats, and controlled outcomes. At another meeting in the context of the CATCH-programme, a brief discussion took place on the statement that any historian of e-History needs to know statistics. This presentation will discuss these views on e-History, and reflect on experiences and expectations in the context of two research programmes: Agora/the semantics of history (an NWO-Catch-based collaboration between computer science, computational linguistics, cultural studies and history) and the e-science Centre project BiographyNed. What is the relationship between computational humanities and digital hermeneutics; how and when will computational interaction with historical sources result into the writing of history? See also the Agorapublication on digital hermeneutics at: http://www.websci11.org/fileadmin/websci/Papers/116_paper.pdf

Susan Legêne is professor of political history at VU University (Faculty of Arts, History department). Until 2008, she was head of the Curatorial department of Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam and closely involved in collection digitization policies. This has been a valuable input in her critical approach to existing collection documentation and its transformation into digitized metadata.  She has been a member of the VKS advisory board. See also: http://www.let.vu.nl/en/staff/s.legene
Agora/ semantics of history  website:  http://agora.cs.vu.nl/