Tuesday 12 March 2013 – Ben Schmidt – Unintended Consequences: Digital Reading and the Loci of Cultural Change

Digital History Seminar, Institute for Historical Research

http://www.history.ac.uk/events/seminars/321 | follow @ihrdighist on Twitter and the #dhist hashtag

Bedford Room G37, Senate House, Ground floor, and live online at HistorySpot 5:15 pm (GMT)

Large scale digital reading is, as its critics have noticed, quite poor at telling us about individual intentions. But digital texts do create new fields for investigation of broad cultural trends which—where reasonably good metadata is available—can help historians to describe changes that appear largely driven by disciplinary or geographical structures rather than the choices of an individual author.

Ben Schmidt’s paper will investigate this in two contexts; in the emergence of a new vocabulary of attention in the 20th century directly contrary to the ambitions of the psychological establishment; and the particular places authors of historical fiction fail to notice changes in language and culture.

Ben Schmidt is a Ph.D. Candidate in American intellectual history at Princeton and the Graduate Fellow at the Cultural Observatory at Harvard. His dissertation studies the emergence of modern conceptions of attention in psychology, advertising, and mass media in the early 20th century century United States. He co-developed Bookworm, a system for visual and statistical exploration of millions of books, newspaper pages, or journal articles, and writes about text analysis and the digital humanities at sappingattention.blogspot.com.

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