Preparing for the Next Smallpox Epidemic

The next smallpox epidemic may never come, but federal officials are preparing for it and at great (excessive?) cost. Pox Americana shows a worst-case scenario. We now have better tools to combat the virus. On the other hand, we travel more frequently than we did in the eighteenth century, and since there are few living survivors of the last outbreak, nearly every one will be susceptible. Individuals born in the United States before 1972 were vaccinated, but the effectiveness of the vaccine is unlikely to persist forty years later.

Census Dotmap

Brandon Martin-Anderson at MIT has produced an endlessly fascinating dot map of the current population in North America. Most maps showing population distribution bin the data by state, county, or province. Those representations can be misleading and are simply less revealing than the fine-grained map created by Martin-Anderson. The M.A.P. Project aspires to create a version of Martin-Anderson's map for early America -- with far less precision, of course.

AHR Prize for the Best Digital Article

The AHR has announced a new prize for the best digital article. According to guidelines, the article must leverage "digital tools and modalities to ask new questions about the past," rather than "merely adorning a presentation with multimedia features or materials." It will be fascinating to see how far the awards committee will be willing to stretch the requirement that entries be "roughly comparable in scope and scale" to a journal article. Some of the more interesting projects lie on the edge of eligibility.

Digital Approaches to Literary History

Ted Underwood has posted his fascinating talk, "How Well Do We Understand Literary History?", delivered at the Nebraska Forum on Digital Humanities on February 7. Basically Ted uses a data mining algorithm to rip through the Hathi Trust's approximately 700,000 volumes of British and North American literature produced between 1700 and 1900, searching for clues as to how literary genres and the use of point-of-view has changed over time.


Dissertating in the Digital Age

In this week's Chronicle of Higher Education, Stacey Patton examines the (sometimes awkward) transition many humanities departments are making as they try to embrace and encourage the digital dimensions of many new dissertations. "Universities face urgent calls to reduce the time it takes to complete degrees, reduce attrition, and do more to prepare doctoral candidates for nonacademic careers," she notes. "Rethinking the academic centerpiece of a graduate education is an obvious place to start if, as many people believe, Ph.D. programs are in a state of crisis."