Council on Academic Computing

March 15, 2010

Meeting Summary

Computer-Based Humanities Scholarship

The Office of the Provost currently is exploring how to incorporate computer-based analysis into humanities scholarship.  Towards this end, Dr. Klinzing invited David Birnbaum, Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, to speak before the Council.  Dr. Birnbaum uses computing approaches in his studies of Slavic texts.  He discussed several projects in which he coded manuscripts so that he could compare textual fragments both within and across manuscripts.  Dr. Birnbaum currently is working with colleagues to determine how watermarks can be used to date documents.  Computer scientists are using their expertise in image recognition to scan the watermarks, and philologists will use the images to compare them across a corpus of documents.

Dr. Birnbaum also discussed the status of computer-intensive, humanities scholarship.  An increasing number of his colleagues use these methods, and their work is supported by an emerging academic network.  Several academic societies, such as the Association for Computers and the Humanities, support this type of research.  Drs. Birnbaum and Klinzing have discussed how to encourage computer-based humanities scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh.  Ideas include providing seed funding for computing-based projects and sponsoring a seminar series, in which the University’s faculty members and non-University scholars present their work.