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Google Books and the Digital Humanities

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting story running today addressing the ways in which people in the humanities are using the ever-increasing storehouse of digital books provided by Google to conduct research projects that would otherwise be nearly impossible.  For example, they mention how one group of folks is write a computer program that will scan through all of the Victorian literature available on Google Books to look for specific types of religious references in order to test the theory that the Victorian Era marked a significant decline in religiosity for England.  Google is even funding some of this kind of research as a means of promoting the academic potential of this expanding database of cultural material.

I think this article really gets at how new media are effecting the humanities.  It wasn’t too long ago that much of an English professor’s entire career could be spent reading analyzing one author – or even one book – deeply and closely.  With the advent of digital resources like Google Books, however, one might be encouraged to look more quantitatively at literature, searching for revealing patterns across large bodies of literature.

Here’s the link to the article for more info:


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