Last week’s reading and discussion of the divide between rational and interpretive ways of thinking echoed a tension running through a research project that I am conducting this semester. I have a group of 11 students who are doing research on the Russian Flu (1889-1890). Some students have majors in history, but others are in business, biomedical engineering, biological sciences, and other scientific fields. Ten (of the eleven) also have the capacity to read source materials in languages other than English (Spanish, German, or French), which was part of the criteria for selecting them. The topic lends itself to quantitative analysis by looking at numbers of cases or deaths (hence the rational approach) but the nature of the source materials tends to defy quantification because they are incomplete, partial, or subjective (leading to a more interpretive approach). It’s been interesting working with the students on resolving these tensions — and having this experience running parallel to the NMS discussions.
I’ve spent more time thinking about a graphic for this blog than I have about the content. I’m trying to find an image that captures the spirit and purpose of the blog, yet is also consistent with my scholarly approach as a historian and within my limited capacities as a designer and manipulator of images. I expect I’ll try some easy options, get frustrated, and settle for something less than what I want, which is a pattern I have previously experienced in this realm.
This site allows for reflections, observations, and suggestions about the implications of “big data” for research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences. The metaphor of being “awash in data” is both illustrative of my perceptions and suggestive of possible responses. More reflections to come…..