Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Digital Humanities and disciplinary frontiers (83)

Simon Musgrave 1
  1. Monash University, VIC, Australia

Interdisciplinarity is seen as central to Digital Humanities by many, both practitioners and theorists, but not all possibilities are seen as equally central and the extent to which interdisciplinarity implies collaboration is also problematic. I will explore these issues by introducing three areas of my current research which use Vector Space Models, a mathematically rigorous implementation of distributional semantic analysis built using machine learning techniques. One project looks at word formation and semantics and is very much internal to the discipline of linguistics; one looks at the relation between semantics and cognition and is located at the boundary of linguistics and cognitive science; the third uses semantic analysis to explore literary texts and their interpretation. I think of each project as part of Digital Humanities, but I am not sure that others would agree and the question of interdisciplinarity is a relevant consideration. One type of research involves bringing techniques from another discipline (machine learning) and applying it to problems in a humanities discipline (linguistics) in collaboration with other linguists. Together, we have sufficient knowledge and skill to apply the machine learning techniques – but is this enough to make a claim of interdisciplinarity? The next example of possible interdisciplinarity is similar to the first except that the work is situated in a different field in linguistics, one which makes contact with other disciplines (cognitive science, psychology) and the project involves a colleague who does not have the relevant technical skills – is this therefore more interdisciplinary? The final example is of research crossing boundaries between computationally informed linguistics and literary studies and involves collaboration with someone from another discipline who does not have relevant computer skills – is this the most interdisciplinary? I will argue that the application of computational research tools is enough to support a claim of interdisciplinarity; that the use of such tools may be based on collaboration with specialists from computer science but that this is not a necessary condition of interdisciplinarity; and that research which involves both the use of new research tools and collaboration across disciplines in the humanities deserves to be valued highly.