I’m picturing digital dwarfs

March 26th, 2012

With data mining, I’m sure they are more than seven dwarfs and Snow White hacking away at the digital world to collect data. While the process of digital mining seems like it could be beneficial to certain kinds of research, I can’t help but think of the age old debate, “quantity vs. quality”. Data mining and N-grams for a person looking a raw data, but these two methods are a clear example of how the qualitative aspect of researching is being lost. As for myself, I’ve been doing a lot of research for my senior thesis. When I go to the library to dig through the shelves, I find myself exhibiting these sorts of methods. I instantly look in the index for major search terms and if they aren’t mentioned then I discard the book. What the researcher loses is the chance that what they are looking for is in the context of what they should be reading. In some ways, I feel like these two methods are the easy way out. For every mention of a search term, there must by at least three mentions of the term without the term being used. Do these data mining and N-gram techniques account for that?

In reference to Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google Making us Stupid?” I believe Google is making us stupid. Every time we change out search terms to find more information on Google what we are really doing is manipulating our brains to think like Google’s search engines. This act is forcing us away from thinking like human beings…critically, intelligently, and rationally to thinking like monotonous computers.

On the subject of searching in history, I think researching is becoming more complicated. “From Babel to Knowledge” by Daniel Cohen addresses that quantity may make up for the lack of quality. I disagree with him in one way. We have all had that “aha!”, epiphany moment while researching where we find a piece of information that will concrete our argument or a source that is so influential to the subject we are studying that we would have never had found through normal internet search means. This moment is influenced by quantity of research, but mining may not produce the same results as sitting on the library floor looking through books.

Overall my view point on this week’s readings is that data mining and N-grams devalue the the institutions of literature, history, and humanities. Some where along the line we are losing those critical thinking skills that we work so hard to develop in college.


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