Thursday, April 5, 2012

New institute taps the power of 'big data'

By Kimber Williams, Emory Report

Quantitative research hasn't traditionally been considered a major facet of a liberal arts education, but times have changed. In a quiet corner of the Emory campus, a bit of scholarly revolution is taking shape.

The new Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods (QuanTM) is unfolding plans to offer new statistics courses, undergraduate fellowships, workshops, a statistics help desk, a speakers series and, by next summer, a major conference, all focused on the theme of "big data."

There is growing interest in the role of computational, quantitative techniques within the humanities "to explore ideas and understand the dynamics that are shaping the culture," says Robin Forman, dean of Emory College.

QuanTM (pronounced "quantum") is directed by Clifford Carrubba, a political science professor who also directs Emory's Center for the Study of Law, Politics and Economics.

Carrubba cites advances in the digital humanities movement and computational linguistics, which allow scholars to identify literary characteristics — such as sentiment or mood — and write computer programs to study that aspect in hundreds of thousands of books.

"I can imagine having undergraduate humanities majors, social and natural scientists in the same class using the same skill set for very different purposes — an English major may be using the same skills that a biologist uses," Carrubba observes.

Read the full story in Emory Report.

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