Friday, December 12, 2008

Resourceful Reading: The New Empiricism, eResearch and Australian Literary Culture

The Resourceful Reading Conference was held at the University of Sydney on 4-5 December.

The conference brought together researchers from fields such as literary studies and mathematics , librarians, database managers, programmers and publishers.

The keynote speakers, Professor Hugh Craig from the University of Newcastle's Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing and David Carter, Professor of Australian Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Queensland, set the tone for a highly productive meeting. Professor Craig's discussion of high-level data analysis supported by computational stylistics was complemented by Professor Carter's reflection on the emergence of 'new empiricism' from the institutional dominance of 'theory' in recent decades.

Under the banner of 'new empiricism', the conference provided a forum for archive-based approaches to the study of literary history and the 'distant reading' enabled by computer analysis of large amounts of data. At one extreme Kathie Barnes (paper delivered in her absence by Paul Eggert) and Roger Osborne discussed their explorations in the papers of David Malouf and Kylie Tennant. At the other, the collaboration between Julieanne Lamond and Mark Reid showed the possibilities of data visualisation based on library borrowing records from Tim Dolin's Australian Common Reader. Between these two extremes within 'new empiricism', a number of research projects were discussed at the conference, demonstrating the variety of new empirical approaches currently operating within the field of Australian literary studies.

These included demonstrations of developments within databases such as AustLit, AusStage, APRIL , Ken Gelder's Colonial Popular Fiction Digital Archive and Pat Buckridge's plans for an Australian version of the British Reading Experience Database.