Criminal Intent in the News

September 20th, 2011

There have been two stories recently about the Digging Into Data Challenge Conference that highlighted our Criminal Intent project. The Chronicle of Higher Education also has a two part story on the conference mentioning this project in the second part. They quote the Criminal Intent respondent, Stephen Ramsay,

Mr. Ramsay’s talk celebrated how this kind of Big Data work can enhance rather than diminish the humanities’ traditional engagement with human experience. “The Old Bailey, like the Naked City, has eight million stories. Accessing those stories involves understanding trial length, numbers of instances of poisoning, and rates of bigamy,” he said in his response. “But being stories, they find their more salient expression in the weightier motifs of the human condition: justice, revenge, dishonor, loss, trial. This is what the humanities are about. This is the only reason for an historian to fire up Mathematica or for a student trained in French literature to get into Java.”

The second story is in Science News and is titled Crime’s digital past. They quote us on how digital techniques are received by traditional historians.

Cohen and his colleagues know that many humanities scholars hold digital humanists in as low esteem as Old Bailey prosecutors once held women accused of bigamy. That’s certainly true of historians, in Hitchcock’s view. “About 90 percent of them sit quietly in an archive for a decade and then write a book with their names printed as large as possible on the cover,” Hitchcock says. In their world, data-crunching makes rude noises with no apparent historical meaning.


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