People read for many reasons: to learn, to be entertained, to be inspired, to be challenged. Until very recently, scholars have accessed books and articles a few at a time, reading them, digesting them, and then discussing them in their own words. The advent of digital libraries provides huge opportunities for accessing books and articles on a massive scale, allowing us to analyze and visualize how they relate to each other, and how the ideas in fiction, philosophy, history, and the sciences may impact developments in other fields. By digging into texts on a massive scale we aim to map the hotspots — when and where, for example, science and philosophy have particularly influenced one another. Although such high-level overviews will be interesting in their own right, we believe that their broader value to scholars and general readers will depend on allowing readers to dig deeper into the texts that provided the data. Because reasoned arguments drive much of science and philosophy, our vision is to be able to use data mining techniques to link the “hotspots” to specific arguments in specific texts debating controversial topics. Our vision is that digging by debating will inform public and scholarly understanding of the controversies and of the past and today.
By Lewis Hine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons