Tuesday 29 October 2013 – Robert Nelson – Ideology and Algorithms: The uses of nationalism in the American Civil War and topic modeling in historical research

Robert Nelson (University of Richmond)

‘Ideology and Algorithms: The uses of nationalism in the American Civil War and topic modeling in historical research’

Venue: Athlone Room, 102, Senate house, first floor

Time: Tuesday, October 29th, 5:15 pm GMT  (please note that time differences between UK and USA are one hour less than usual)

This presentation will explore the instrumental functions of nationalistic and patriotic rhetoric during the Civil War. Using an innovative text-mining technique called topic modeling to analyze the entire runs of the Richmond Daily Dispatch and the New-York Times during the war, it will suggest that the two newspapers used the same language of patriotism and nationalism but to different ends: the former to draw men into the army, the latter to draw voters to the polls to support the Republic Party.  It will also reflect upon the broader methodological value of topic modeling, suggesting how cultural and intellectual historians can use the technique to interpret the concrete political, social, and emotional functions of elusive ideological discourses.

Rob Nelson is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab and affiliated faculty in the American Studies program at the University of Richmond.  He has directed and developed a number of digital humanities projects including “Mining the Dispatch,” “Redlining Richmond,” and the History Engine.  He’s currently working on a couple of projects.  One uses a text-mining technique called topic modeling to analyze nationalism in Civil War newspapers.  The other is an multi-year, collaborative project to develop an extensive digital atlas of American history.

Robert will be speaking via live video link. The seminar will be streamed live online at HistorySpot. To keep in touch, follow us on Twitter (@IHRDigHist) or at the hashtag #dhist.

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