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Ben Schmidt
Works at Northeastern University
Attended Princeton University
Lived in Somerville MA
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Ben Schmidt

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The efficient plots hypothesis
I'm pulling this discussion out of the comments thread on Scott Enderle's blog , because it's fun. This is the formal statement of what will forever be known as the efficient plot hypothesis for plot arceology . Noble prize in culturomics, here I come. Brie...
I'm pulling this discussion out of the comments thread on Scott Enderle's blog, because it's fun. This is the formal statement of what will forever be known as the efficient plot hypothesis for plot arceology. Noble prize in culturomics, here I come. Brief background: Enderle shows pretty ...
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Why Digital Humanists don't need to understand algorithms, but do need to understand transformations
Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016 is now online, and includes my contribution, "Do Digital Humanists Need to Understand Algorithms?"  (As well as a pretty snazzy cover image …) In it I lay out distinction between transformations, which are about states...
Put simply: digital humanists do not need to understand algorithms at all. They do need, however, to understand the transformations that algorithms attempt to bring about. If we do so, our practice will be more effective and more likely to be truly original. It then moves into one case study; ...
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Nature publishes flat-earth research paper
I usually keep my mouth shut in the face of the many hilarious errors that crop up in the burgeoning world of datasets for cultural analytics, but this one is too good to pass up. Nature has just published a dataset description paper that appears to devote ...
I usually keep my mouth shut in the face of the many hilarious errors that crop up in the burgeoning world of datasets for cultural analytics, but this one is too good to pass up. Nature has just published a dataset description paper that appears to devote several paragraphs to describing ...
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**
A heads-up for those with this blog on their RSS feeds: I've just posted a couple things of potential interest on one of the two other blogs (errm) I'm running on my own site. One, " Vector Space Models for the digital humanities ," describes how a newly im...
A heads-up for those with this blog on their RSS feeds: I've just posted a couple things of potential interest on one of the two other blogs (errm) I'm running on my own site. One, "Vector Space Models for the digital humanities," describes how a newly improved class of algorithms known as word ...
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State of the Union--and corpus comparison.
Mitch Fraas and I have put together a two-part interactive for the Atlantic using Bookworm as a backend to look at the changing language in the State of Union. Yoni Appelbaum, who just took over this week, spearheaded a great team over there including Chris...
Mitch Fraas and I have put together a two-part interactive for the Atlantic using Bookworm as a backend to look at the changing language in the State of Union. Yoni Appelbaum, who just took over this week, spearheaded a great team over there including Chris Barna, Libby Bawcombe, Noah Gordon, ...
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Administrative layers
Sometimes it takes time to make a data visualization, and sometimes they just fall out of the data practically by accident. I'm working to build one of the former for my talk at the American Historical Association out of the Newberry Library's remarkable At...
Sometimes it takes time to make a data visualization, and sometimes they just fall out of the data practically by accident. I'm working to build one of the former for my talk at the American Historical Association out of the Newberry Library's remarkable Atlas of Historical County Boundaries.
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Language is biased. What should engineers do?
Word embedding models are kicking up some interesting debates at the confluence of ethics, semantics, computer science, and structuralism. Here I want to lay out some of the elements in one recent place that debate has been taking place inside computer scie...
Word embedding models are kicking up some interesting debates at the confluence of ethics, semantics, computer science, and structuralism. Here I want to lay out some of the elements in one recent place that debate has been taking place inside computer science.
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Plot arceology, emotion, and tension
Some scientists came up with a list of the 6 core story types. On the surface, this is extremely similar to Matt Jockers' work from last year. Like Jockers, they use a method for disentangling plots that is based on sentiment analysis, justify it mostly wit...
Some scientists came up with a list of the 6 core story types. On the surface, this is extremely similar to Matt Jockers' work from last year. Like Jockers, they use a method for disentangling plots that is based on sentiment analysis, justify it mostly with reference to Kurt Vonnegut, ...
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Literary Dopplegängers and interestingness
I started this post with a few digital-humanities posturing paragraphs: if you want to read them, you'll encounter them eventually. But instead let me just get the point: here's a trite new category of analysis that wouldn't be possible without distant read...
I started this post with a few digital-humanities posturing paragraphs: if you want to read them, you'll encounter them eventually. But instead let me just get the point: here's a trite new category of analysis that wouldn't be possible without distant reading techniques that produces sometimes ...
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Data Visualization and Embedded Reading

Digital Humanities: Using tools from the 1990s to answer questions from the 1960s about 19th century America. Wednesday, January 21, 2015. Data Visualization and Embedded Reading. Posted by Ben Schmidt at 2:01 PM · Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest ...
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Federal College Rankings: The pitfalls of a magical regression model
Far and away the most interesting idea of the new government college ratings emerges toward the end of the report. It doesn't quite square the circle of competing constituencies for the rankings I worries about in my last post, but it gets close. Lots of we...
Far and away the most interesting idea of the new government college ratings emerges toward the end of the report. It doesn't quite square the circle of competing constituencies for the rankings I worries about in my last post, but it gets close. Lots of weight is placed on a single magic model ...
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Federal college rankings: who are they for?
Before the holiday, the Department of Education circulated a draft prospectus
of the new college rankings they hope to release next year. That afternoon, I wrote a somewhat dyspeptic post on the way that these
rankings, like all rankings, will inevitably be...
Before the holiday, the Department of Education circulated a draft prospectus of the new college rankings they hope to release next year. That afternoon, I wrote a somewhat dyspeptic post on the way that these rankings, like all rankings, will inevitably be gamed. But it's probably better to ...
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Introduction
Assistant professor of history at Northeastern University
Education
  • Princeton University
    History, 2013
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Work
Occupation
Historian and Digital Humanist
Employment
  • Northeastern University
    Assistant Professor of History, 2013 - present
  • Harvard University
    Visiting Fellow, 2011 - 2013
  • Princeton University
    Graduate Student, 2005 - 2011
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Previously
Somerville MA - Somerville MA - Cambridge MA - Newton MA - Princeton NJ
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