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Wednesday, 31st March 2010

New Grant Program from Google to Study Its Digitized Books

Highlights From an Article by Mark Parry:

Google is getting antsy.

Even as a lawsuit over its book-digitization project remains up in the air, the search giant has quietly started reaching out to universities in search of humanities scholars who are ready to roll up their sleeves and hit the virtual stacks.

The company is creating a "collaborative research program to explore the digital humanities using the Google Books corpus," according to a call for proposals obtained by The Chronicle. Some of Google's academic partners say the grant program marks the company's first formal foray into supporting humanities text-mining research.

The call went out to a select group of scholars, offering up to $50,000 for one year. Google says it may choose to renew the grants for a second year. It is not clear whether anybody can apply for the money, or just the group that got the solicitation.


Literature is one of eight "disciplines of interest" that Google has identified for its program. The others are linguistics, history, classics, philosophy, sociology, archaeology, and anthropology.

The effort seems largely focused on building tools to comb and improve Google's digital library, whose book-search metadata—dates and other search-assisting information—one academic researcher calls a "train wreck." These are some of the sample projects that Google lists in its call for proposals:

• Building software for tracking changes in language over time.

• Creating utilities to discover books and passages of interest to a particular discipline.

• Developing systems for crowd-sourced corrections to book data and metadata.

• The testing of a literary or historical hypothesis through innovative analysis of a book.

Access More After a Click

Breakthrough for Digital Humanities?

In part, the program reflects Google's self-interest. One of the company's imperatives is to encourage people to use its collections in creative ways, so that those collections "become essential parts of daily life," says Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia and author of the forthcoming book The Googlization of Everything. But he argues that Google's support could also be a breakthrough for digital humanities.

This is just a portion of the complete article. Full Text Here.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education


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