Please join us on Thursday, March 28th at 4pm in Studio at Butler (208b) for “Machine Learning and Human Interpretive Theory” with Ted Underwood (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). If you’re coming from outside Columbia, send me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org ahead of time (48 hours before plz) so I can put your name on the door list. Hope to see you there!
Abstract: Principled doubts about the humanistic significance of numbers can’t be dispelled by terms like “big data” that seem to point at the sheer speed and scale of computers. This talk will instead explore the interpretive assumptions that underpin statistical models, using examples drawn from the history of fantasy and science fiction to show how machine learning can be used to model specific historical vantage points and measure the parallax between perspectives. It is getting easier to move between qualitative and quantitative disciplines, I will argue, not because data is big, but because practices of statistical modeling have quietly drifted toward humanistic theories of interpretation.