“Distant Reading the End of the World: Big Data and The Hunger Games” — Public Lecture by Michael Gavin
Michael Gavin's current book project explores the spatial distribution of language. Alternating between large-scale data analysis drawn from geographical writing and small-scale data culled from novels, Gavin tells the long history of how English has been used to organize knowledge about the planet, from the earliest printed atlases, through the meticulously detailed documents of Industrial Revolution, to Wikipedia, where millions of locales are described in more than 200 languages. The language of place is rich, varied, and tangled in a complex network of historical meaning. Against this background, Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games (2008-2010) narrates a spatially and lexically impoverished world where people are divided by stark boundaries and trapped in zones of terrifying experience. Using geographical information systems and natural language processing, Gavin explores the history of spatial description in novels, from Robinson Crusoe to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, finding, in The Hunger Games, a powerful reflection of nationalism's twenty-first century contradictions. Free and open to all.
About Michael Gavin
Michael Gavin is a scholar of digital humanities and British literature. He is the author of The Invention of English Criticism, 1650-1760 (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and numerous articles on a range of methods and practices in the digital humanities, including a recent article co-authored with Eric Gidal of the University of Iowa English Department: "Scotland's Poetics of Space: An Experiment in Geospatial Semantics" (Cultural Analytics). His current research asks how new forms of digital writing enable new ways of thinking and talking about literature, history, and geography. His own work ranges across computational linguistics, network science, geospatial modeling, and agent-based simulation.
Sponsored by Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry: A Grinnell College/University of Iowa Partnership funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and the UI Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio.