CFP: Big Data and the Performing Arts

Thanks to Blake Landor for sharing the CFP below. The full CFP and other information is available on the TLA site:

TLA75Theatre Library Association Plenary – Call for Papers
2013 Annual Conference of the American Society for Theatre Research-Theatre Library Association
Dallas, Texas, November 7-10, 2013
The emergence of large digitized collections of humanities resources has made it possible to meaningfully address research questions that previously would have taken many lifetimes to answer.  However, theater historians have undertaken relatively little of this kind of work.
Despite large datasets of digitized theater reviews, industry news, and production information [cast lists in Playbill Vault or Internet Broadway Database], theater scholars have by and large continued to do close readings of texts and events – and have not yet attempted what Franco Moretti has called distant reading:  analyzing not one small set of texts, but an entire corpus of digitized data.
Some primary examples of large digitized datasets include the Google Books corpus leading to the Google N-Grams viewer, which allows researchers to trace the frequency of words and phrases over two centuries of printed text.
An MIT project is currently mining repositories of digitized sheet music to uncover patterns in chords and melodic motions over time.  Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University of Toronto are tracking articles in historical newspapers published during the Influenza outbreak of 1918 in order “to understand how newspapers shaped public opinion and represented authoritative knowledge during this deadly Pandemic.”
These projects employ methods similar to those developed for research in the sciences in order to expand our understanding of topics of primary interest to humanities scholars.
This field is ripe for exploration.  Possible Plenary themes may include:

  • Thought experiments designed to provoke project proposals
  • Narratives describing completed or in-progress research
  • Analysis of the existing digitized corpus of possible interest to theater scholars
  • Critiques of the assumptions and methodologies of Big Data research in the arts and humanities
  • Applications of cultural data in instruction
  • Libraries’ role in access, storage, and distribution

Participants may wish to examine Franco Moretti’s book, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History, as well as the Digging into Data funding program website [sponsored by numerous international granting bodies]:
Please submit a one-page Proposal as an e-mail attachment by February 15, 2013 to:
Doug Reside, TLA Plenary Chair
Digital Curator of the Performing Arts
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

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