Humanities professors are teaming up with technology experts to push research in new directions. A recent New York Times article provided some interesting examples of how technical tools can help researchers pose new questions and find answers.
For example, the article mentioned researchers who are digitally mapping Civil War battlefields to understand the role topography played in battles. Academics are combining animation, charts and primary documents to create new ways to teach students about Thomas Jefferson's travels.
The National Endowment for the Humanities has teamed up with the National Science Foundation and institutions in Canada and Britain to create a new grant program to push research in new directions. The program is called the Digging Into Data Challenge.
While some researchers are excited about this melding of humanities and technology some are critical of the alliance. The field of humanities deals with aesthetics and emotions. Some critics wonder how these elements can be measured.
The New York Times article quotes Brett Bobley, director of the endowment's office of digital humanities. He said, analyzing unprecedented amounts of data can reveal patterns and trends and raise unexpected questions for study. He cited the human genome project is an example of how an area of study can be transformed.
"Technology hasn't just made astronomy, biology and physics more efficient. It has let scientists do research they simply couldn't do before," Bobley said.