Computational methods can help the humanities by making massive cultural heritage collections more explorable and analyzable. Machine learning and statistical methods provide an opportunity to view collections from alien, defamiliarized perspectives that can call into question the boundaries between established categories. But the converse is also true: the humanities have much to offer machine learning. The use of computational methods within humanities scholarship often tests and expands the affordances of these methods. The complexities and idiosyncrasies of humanities collections can improve our understanding of what models learn and how we might direct what they learn.
In this talk, Laure Thompson will discuss how machine learning and the humanities help each other. She will demonstrate how convolutional neural networks can be used as an exploratory tool to ask "What is Dada?" Then, she will show how science-fiction novels highlight the way topic models tend to learn author- and series-oriented discourses, and how they have inspired a method for directing these models toward more cross-cutting themes. Finally, Thompson will briefly describe how these two lines of work are being combined to enable the study of magical gems, an art-historic category of engraved gemstones from the Greco-Roman world.
Laure Thompson is an assistant professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at UMass Amherst. This talk will be introduced and facilitated by Lee Spector, visiting professor of computer science at Amherst College.
Co-sponsored and funded by the Artificial Intelligence in the Liberal Arts Initiative
Kimberlyn Leary ’82, Amherst College trustee and senior vice president at the Urban Institute, will moderate a conversation with Ibram X. Kendi, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton University. This conversation is part of the President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism, a series that centers the voices of scholars studying intersections of race and American democracy. This event is restricted to members of the Amherst College community, and registration is required.
Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. Kendi is the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. He is the author of many books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest ever winner of that award. He also authored three #1 New York Times bestsellers, How to Be an Antiracist; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. His newest books are Be Antiracist: A Journal for Awareness, Reflection, and Action; and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, co-edited with Keisha Blain, which will be out in February. In 2020, Time magazine named Kendi one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an assistant professor in the Department of African-American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, published in 2019 by the University of North Carolina Press, longlisted for a National Book Award for nonfiction and a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer in History. Taylor’s book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Award for an Especially Notable Book in 2016. She is also editor of How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, which won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ nonfiction in 2018. Taylor is a scholar of racial inequality in public policy making and the various ways that Black communities have challenged or resisted these constraints. She writes extensively on race and politics, Black social movements and organizing, and radical activism and politics. Taylor is currently working on a project, tentatively titled, Morning in America or Black America’s Nightmare: Reaganism, Racism, and the Long Decade of the Nineteen Eighties, which will explore the persistence of racial inequality into the 1980s during the successive presidential terms of Ronald Reagan, despite claims of colorblind governance. Taylor is among the inaugural cohort of Freedom Scholars funded by the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation. She has been appointed as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians by the Organization of American Historians and is a contributing writer and columnist for The New Yorker.
Kimberlyn Leary ’82 was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 2016. She is the Senior Vice President at the Urban Institute. She is also an associate professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School and an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Lecturer in Public Health. As a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow, she served as an adviser to President Obama's White House Council on Women and Girls, developing the Advancing Equity initiative focused on improving life outcomes for women and girls of color. She also served as an advisor to the White House Office of Management and Budget in the Health Division’s public health branch and a senior policy advisor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.