In her exploration of the computational turn in the humanities, N. Katherine Hayles describes a serious rift between traditional and digital research practices: on one side there is the canon, historicism and close reading, while on the other is data, computation and pattern recognition. While there are probably few who subscribe entirely to one extreme or the other, the contrasts are real and, as Hayles argues, there is a need for articulations of the traditional and digital humanities together. Against this background, Stevenson will introduce work carried out together with the Digital Methods Initiative, a group of Amsterdam-based researchers, programmers and designers seeking to rework method for the web. Though digital methods are clearly of a part with the trend toward data-driven, computational research, Stevenson will argue that they go some way in aligning this with more traditional concerns in the humanities. To this end, his talk will focus on studies of Wikipedia, the early blogosphere and other web cultures, as these best highlight the congruity between the historical specificity of the objects of study and that of the methods for capturing, analyzing and visualizing them – a dynamic represented in the digital methods adage, “follow the medium.”
Michael Stevenson is a PhD candidate in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, and researcher with the Digital Methods Initiative. His dissertation is focused on the history of web culture and its foundation in 1990s cyberculture. Other research and teaching interests include genealogies of new media concepts and the use of digital methods and information visualization in web cultural research. Stevenson is also an alumnus of the Masters of Media research blog, where he still publishes occasionally, and has co-created a number of new media art projects, including the Whatever Button Firefox extension and Elfriendo.com, the Web 2.0-compliant start-up.