Accepted for the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society for Utopian Studies
The Nittany Lion Inn on the Penn State Campus
State College, Pennsylvania
October 20-23, 2011
ABSTRACT: Suppose we imagine an archivist who has managed to collect all the individual pieces of knowledge ever available and preserve them in some common or useful form. Suppose further that our archivist wants to make this information as widely available as possible. Even setting aside real problems of literacy, disability, language, and the like, a key question will still remain: how to arrange this information to facilitate the public’s access to it? This paper surveys three different models for arranging the archive (expert/authoritative curation, crowdsourcing, and computational methods), noting the theoretical and practical implications of each. I argue that the authority model, still largely in use today, has some advantages but is also likely to reproduce biased and oppressive attitudes of the authorities or their historical situation, which reflects longstanding concerns about power and control present in utopian and dystopian thought. Following that, I examine the crowdsourcing model as an instance of digital utopia, which holds exciting possibilities for reimagining (and reorganizing) the archive. At the same time, I argue, there is real concern that crowds could agree on inaccurate or harmful beliefs, making this model potentially unsuitable for arranging the archive. I conclude by describing some advantages of computational methods, provided that those methods incorporate elements of the first two models. This hybrid position blends technology and individual participation in a way that surmounts some traditional concerns present in utopian imaginings.
Demographers study the structure, interactions, and shifting trends of human populations. To date, artificial and opt-in populations have received little attention. This work applies demographic methods to the field of philosophy to understand its past, current, and future directions. For example, consider this adapted population graph showing North American philosophy PhDs in the period 1905–2005.
Population graphs show the overall structure of a population based on age group (i.e., birth year cohort); male and female figures are often shown separately, since sex has important implications for other demographic trends involving birth rate, education, health, and so on. Population graphs often highlight the growth and age structure of the population, as well as changes in female and male birth rate and mortality.
For the purpose of studying philosophy, this standard population graph was adapted in several ways. Although individuals enter a population through birth or immigration, entry into academic disciplines is best characterized by completing a doctoral degree in the field. Thus, the year in which a person’s doctoral degree was awarded was used as a proxy for his/her birth year in the field. (In this graph, there is no correlate for exit because many actual years of death are unknown and, even if they were, it is likely the individuals exit the field through retirement or unemployment years or decades before they die.) As a result, the graph is not a true population graph because it does not show any existent population over a single period of time, but rather several continuous populations within the period indicated. Nevertheless, the chart captures overall trends of growth and decline and gives a sense of the age and gender of the current population.
 Data on doctoral degrees was compiled from dissertations housed in libraries at 17 North American institutions, as well as records contained in Dissertation Abstracts International, Thomas Bechtle’s Dissertations in Philosophy Accepted at American Universities, 1861-1975, and annual lists of doctoral degrees printed in the Review of Metaphysics. Sex was imputed to degree recipients based on first and middle names, as well as additional research about specific individuals. Of the original 14,926 degree recipients, the sex of 911 (6.1%) could not be determined, and these were excluded from the visualization
This 2011 NEH Digital Start-Up Grant explores best practices in database architecture and visualization for use among professional organizations in the humanities and scholarly associations. Grant activities include workshops and the development of a consortium to generate standards for shared, interoperable data sets for humanities-based network analysis projects.
For recent updates, see http://compdb.blogspot.com.
Phylo combines data sources, user feedback, and visual analytics to advance the study of the discipline of philosophy. Our work traces the flow of ideas across time by documenting the people, places, and institutions associated with philosophy. As a service to the philosophical community, Phylo also provides free information on professional opportunities and activities, including job listings and placement records.
Phylo was created by David Morrow and Chris Alen Sula in 2006 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Phylo is currently a project of DigitalHumanities @ SILS, an initiative of the School of Information & Library Science at Pratt Institute. Phylo has received supported from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York and the New Media Lab.
For more information, visit http://phylo.info.
This is an introductory course to key concepts, systems, and tools to organize, provide access to, and share information resources. The course covers basic principles and applications of descriptive cataloging, classification, and indexing for physical and electronic resources. Also covered are metadata, thesauri, and emerging knowledge organization systems including ontologies and folksonomies. The course provides the foundation for further studies in library, archives, and museum cataloging; reference; information retrieval; database management; and information architecture.
This course examines the art, science, and practice of information visualization. Particular emphasis is placed on the ways in which position, shape, size, brightness, color, orientation, texture, and motion influence perception of information and facilitate comprehension and analysis of large and complex bodies of information. Topics include cognition and visual perception; the aesthetics of visual media; techniques for processing and manipulating information for the purpose of visualization; studies of spatial, relational, multivariate, time-series, interactive, and other visual approaches; and methods for evaluating information visualizations.
ABSTRACT. Traditional representations of philosophy have tended to prize the role of reason in the discipline. These accounts focus exclusively on ideas and arguments as animating forces in the field. But anecdotal evidence and more rigorous sociological studies suggest there is more going on in philosophy. In this article, we present two hypotheses about social factors in the field: that social factors influence the development of philosophy, and that position of status and reputation—and thus social influence—will tend to be awarded to philosophers who offer rationally compelling arguments for their views. In order to test these hypotheses, we need a more comprehensive grasp on the field than traditional representations afford. In particular, we need more substantial data about various social connections between philosophers. This investigation belongs to a naturalized metaphilosophy, an empirical study of the discipline itself, and it offers prospects for a fuller and more reliable understanding of philosophy.
School of Information
144 W 14th Street, Sixth Floor
New York, NY 10011
csula [at] pratt [dot] edu