THATCamp AAR Workshop: Data Analysis for Humanists

At THATCamp American Academy of Religion on November 22 I will be giving this workshop. I think they wanted me to do it because of this post.

Data Analysis for Humanists

Humanities scholars now have access to a range of data sets and techniques for analyzing them that were previously regarded as the province of scholars in other disciplines. Three kinds of data analysis are common in academic research: mapping, text mining, and quantitative analysis. In this workshop, we’ll try our hands at all three, using data sets of interest to scholars of religion. We will make maps from the missions of the Paulist Fathers, do some quantitative analysis of religious demographic data, and mine the texts of the Oxford Movement’s Tracts for the Times. By bringing these common kinds of data analysis together, we will learn the basic practices and theories which underlie all of them. Of course we will have occasion to discuss what data analysis means from a humanistic perspective.

During this workshop we will get hands-on with the statistical programming language R. While there are many tools to make maps, mine texts, and analyze numbers, R is especially powerful because it can perform all of these types of analysis. R is a favorite tool of academics, Google, and the New York Times, so it has strong support. You are encouraged to install R (the programming language itself) and the desktop version of R Studio (a tool to help you use R) in advance. Self-starters can watch some of Google’s video introductions to R to acquire the basics. While you will benefit from learning some of the theory behind the analysis even without using R, there is no substitute for performing the analysis yourself, and you’ll pick up the basics of a powerful digital humanities tool.