On Newspapers and Being Human

Digital Humanities, NULab, Viral Texts
Last week, an opinion piece appeared in the New York Times, arguing that the advent of algorithmically derived human-readable content may be destroying our humanity, as the lines between technology and humanity blur. A particular target in this article is the advent of "robo-journalism," or the use of algorithms to write copy for the news.[ref]The article also decries other types of algorithmically derived texts, but the case for computer-generated creative fiction or poetry is fairly well argued by people such as Mark Sample, and is not an argument that I have anything new to add to.[/ref] The author cites a study that alleges that "90 percent of news could be algorithmically generated by the mid-2020s, much of it without human intervention." The obvious rebuttal to this statement is that algorithms are…
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Passing on the Scissors and the Quill: Editorial Tenure in Viral Texts

Digital Humanities, NULab
The newspaper business was highly variable in the nineteenth century (in different ways than it is in the 21st century). Changes in editorship, political affiliation, and even location were frequent. Editorial changes were particularly significant, since very few editors maintained exactly the same newspaper that they inherited from a predecessor. Editors came and went quite often, passing on the "scissors and the quill," in the words of the outgoing editor of the Polynesian, Edwin O. Hall. [caption id="attachment_426" align="alignnone" width="1545"] A Hoe press, of the type made famous by John McClanahan, editor of the Memphis Daily Appeal (Creative Commons licensed image from flickr user jwyg)[/caption] (more…)
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Developing High- and Low-Tech Digital Competencies

Digital Humanities, NULab
Last week, Ben Schmidt gave a talk at Northeastern, part of which was about developing technical competency in digital methods. This semester, I’ve had the chance to develop my technical competency in working with data, mostly by jumping in with both feet and flailing around in all directions. The task I was given in the NULab has allowed me to play with several different digital methods. The base project was this: turn strings such as these 10138 sn86071378/1854-12-14/ed-1 sn85038518/1854-12-07/ed-1 8744 sn83030213/1842-12-08/ed-1 sn86053954/1842-12-14/ed-1 8099 sn84028820/1860-01-05/ed-1 sn88061076/1859-12-23/ed-2 7819 sn85026050/1860-12-06/ed-1 sn83035143/1860-12-06/ed-1 7792 sn86063325/1850-01-03/ed-1 sn89066057/1849-12-31/ed-1 into a usable representation of a pair of newspapers who share a printed text. This snippet is 5 lines of a document of over 2 million lines, so obviously doing the substitutions by hand was not really an option.…
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