Andrew Prescott on Deceptions of Data (Feb 12)

I am delighted to introduce this semester’s second seminar speaker. Andrew Prescott is Professor and Head of the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. Someone I have wanted to meet for quite some time.

From 1979 to 2000, he was a curator in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library. From 2000-2007 he was Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry in the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. He was the British Library coordinator for projects such as Electronic Beowulf and does research in the history of libraries and archives, imaging of historical documents and the digital humanities.

Professor Prescott is a distinct (and sometimes provocative) voice within digital humanities, and his blog – Digital Riffs- is highly recommended. Twitter: @Ajprescott.

[February 12, 1:15 pm]
The Deceptions of Data
Andrew Prescott, King’s College London

Abstract: Among the many drivers of the current wave of digital transformation is the way in which we are starting to link, manipulate and present in innovative ways large quantities of data generated by previous computing activities. While the exploration of data offers exciting opportunities for new types of scholarly investigations and activities, it can also encourage a suspension of critical disbelief. Data enthusiasts are prone to presenting data as a new intellectual force, with an autonomous quality of its own – a means of escaping from critical and theoretical concerns. Yet data is a historical construct, as complex, deceptive and slippery as any kind of text. There is a risk that new forms of mapping and visualization can conceal the nature of the underlying data and make us forget its difficulties and complexities. This presentation will consider the tensions between the potential of data to offer new intellectual vistas and the tendency for data to be selective, biased or unrepresentative. It will suggest that the critical and intellectual landscape revealed by the exploration of these tensions represents part of the heartland of the digital humanities.

Place: HUMlab (main campus). The seminar will be live streamed and archived. No registration required, but please feel free to sign up for the facebook event!

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