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Elijah Meeks's blog

4 Lessons for Digital Humanities Scholars from Donald Rumsfeld

As digital humanities scholarship matures, it behooves us to look to thinkers outside the field for help in crafting our research agenda and planning our projects. One of those thinkers is Donald Rumsfeld, the Socrates of Strategery, whose insightful rhetoric can guide us in our treatment of this young field. Some of you might be thinking, “Who’s Donald Rumsfeld?” If you don’t know who Donald Rumsfeld is, you can skip reading this, since you’re not firmly enough ensconced in the fear, uncertainty and doubt that comes from trying to understand the place of humanities scholarship in relation to new technologies, new media, and new modes of engagement.
For those who do know Donald Rumsfeld, you know that he had a way of expressing the complex, postmodern world in a way that was simultaneously accessible and fertile. Like a modern Laozi, his seemingly blaise descriptions of complex systems contain multilayered wisdom of the kind necessary for identifying the key features of such systems.
Lesson 1: Known Unknowns

Responsive Data Visualization

The final chapter of my book, D3.js in Action, is focused on explaining using the D3 data visualization library for mobile development. It was a bit of a stretch for me, since I hadn’t done very much mobile development, and I expected to write a short chapter outlining the functions like d3.touches that exist to handle touch interface.


Digital Humanities and Data Science

I'm proud to announce that Stanford University Library will be bringing on Scott Weingart as a data scientist to help support digital humanities scholarship here at Stanford. Scott is well-known in the digital humanities community for his work on information visualization MOOCs, courses on network analysis, editing the Journal of Digital Humanities issue focused on topic modeling, and work alongside other DH scholars to create The Historian's Macroscope, an online text that provides an exhaustive introduction to the particular flavor of digital humanities that involves bringing a computational lens to traditional humanities research questions. Regardless of the name of the position anyone gave to Scott, it's obvious that his support would be welcomed by digital humanities scholars. So, why data science, and not something a bit less science-sounding than, say, "digital humanities specialist"?

Spreadsheets are Information Visualization

Like most valuable human experiences, this all started on Twitter, when I used a tired meme to deliver what I thought would be considered radical to folks not involved with information visualization but rather pat to those that were.


This is part of a talk I gave at #txdhc. It leaves out "principles of interloping in network science" which I'll try to put in a later post.

When I was invited to give a talk at The Texas Digital Humanities Consortium's First Annual Conference about networks and specifically networks in the humanities, I asked myself the same thing I did when I was asked to write D3.js in Action: how can I speak on something for which I don't have a degree? How can I write a book about programming when I don't have a degree in computer science?

Similarly, how can I give a talk about networks when I don't have a degree in network science? Obviously, I have some experience with networks, such as my work representing topic models as a network.


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