Distant Reading: Large-Scale Textual Analysis for Sinology and Beyond

“CHINA &” Series

3:00-4:30 Public Talk and Discussion (Click here for RSVP)

4:30-5:30 Workshop, Pre-registration requested (Click here for RSVP)

With Dr. Ryan Nichols (Full Professor, Department of Philosophy, California State University, Fullerton) and

Dr. Edward Slingerland (Distinguished University Scholar | Professor of Asian Studies, UBC)



Lecture topic:

Ryan Nichols: Supernatural Agents and Prosociality in Historical China

Edward Slingerland: Beyond Cherry-Picking: Using Large-Scale Text Analysis to Adjudicate Hermeneutical Disputes

The creation of digital, fully-searchable text corpora opens up entirely new analytic possibilities for researchers, especially sinologists, who have a wealth of such corpora at their disposal. It remains the fact, however, that scholarly arguments in the field are still supported primarily with small numbers of cherry-picked examples, with no attempt to document larger patterns or trends.

This event will begin with two talks illustrating how large-scale text analysis tools can help to resolve long-standing interpretative debates or uncover new patterns in the texts that we read. Such efforts are best pursued by interdisciplinary teams, and we will discuss the challenges in creating these sorts of collaborations. With some guidance, however, individuals can also begin to experiment with these new methodological tools. The talks will be followed by an optional, hands-on workshop allowing participants to learn how to perform their own analyses using freely-available software packages.

Following the public talk, Prof. Nichols will run a hands-on workshop focused on the basics of text mining and large-scale text analysis, and using Donald Sturgeon’s Chinese Text Project corpus as our material. Although the text to be analyzed is in classical Chinese, the workshop itself will be held in English, and knowledge of classical Chinese—though helpful—is not strictly necessary to benefit from the workshop.

Prior to the workshop, participants are requested to download the latest version of AntConc, a freeware text-mining application for all platforms. It would be best if participants began to familiarize themselves with how to use the program by uploading a text file and playing with it beforehand, but they will be walked through its use in the workshop.

AntConc: http://www.laurenceanthony.net/software/antconc/

In addition, participants are asked to follow the Dropbox link below so that they can download the corpus to be analyzed during the workshop onto their local hard drive. Click here for the link to the corpus to be analyzed during the workshop (the ctext.org Chinese Text Project corpus), please download ahead of time the file Alltexts.