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The Renaissance


Just as the mechanical clock is the metaphor for the early modern period and the steam engine represents the industrial revolution, the computer is the symbol of our age. 1 Computers affect almost every aspect of our lives, and the social sciences and humanities are no exception. Computers have changed the way scholars research, write, and teach.

      The idea for this book began in 1993 at the Conference on Computing in the Social Sciences (CSS93) held at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and sponsored by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). NCSA director Larry Smarr had challenged social scientists to envision new approaches to resolving problems using high-performance computing. Smarr extended the resources of NCSA for Probe projects, which spanned a variety of social science disciplines and used high-performance computing to solve previously intractable problems. The results of thirteen of these high-performance research projects were presented at CSS93.

      "Grand Challenges in the Social Sciences" thus became the theme of the conference. To clarify the role of social scientists in defining, shaping, and ultimately overcoming grand challenges, this conference focused on both practical and theoretical aspects of social science computing. The conference highlighted presentations of the most powerful high-performance computing research as well as more common microcomputer use for social scientists and humanists. This volume began as a collection of papers presented at CSS93. However, with the rapid changes in technology, some papers soon became outdated and new issues arose. Thus, only two of these chapters were part of CSS93, and these two papers have been revised and updated. The furious pace of change in the larger computing world juxtaposed with the slower pace of technological adoption and adaptation in the humanities and social sciences redirected our purpose from presenting conference proceedings to providing a usable, meaningful book and multipurpose CD-ROM. This book provides a bridge to those new or uncomfortable with digital media.

      Accompanying this book is a CD-ROM titled Wayfarer: Charting Advances in Social Science and Humanities Computing. Wayfarer is a new concept. It contains some of the most important ideas, programs, models, and demonstrations in humanities and social science computing and papers more suited to presentation on a CD-ROM than in a printed volume. Current topics in diverse fields are covered. Whereas the nature of the academy and the differing pace of change and innovation in different disciplines tend to keep complementary ideas and approaches apart, this CD-ROM is a concise overview (able to be updated through the Web) of where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. Wayfarer is intentionally eclectic, an exhibition that highlights significant perspectives of the computer revolution. The CD-ROM provides something for everyone, from the generalist in the humanities to the social scientist who seeks specialist programs and tools for analysis. Edited by historians, this elaborate CD-ROM was designed for utility by Frank Baker of NCSA. Wayfarer contains the papers from this book and many more. Wayfarer features an interactive repository, functional demonstrations, and extensive bibliographic materials (some essays from the book have more extensive reference lists than are contained in the Notes in this book.) Wayfarer expresses, in ways that scholarly papers alone cannot, the energetic quality of current computer-based and digital media-based experimentation and exploration of the social sciences and humanities.

      This book and CD-ROM examine how computers have changed the methods social scientists use and contributed to a reorientation of the craft and how new technology is changing research in the social sciences and humanities. In short, they explore the renaissance in computing in the humanities and social sciences. Scholars have disputed whether such a renaissance has occurred. In May 1990, in an exchange of views in the Newsletter of the Organization of American Historians, Walter A. Sutton, professor of history at Lamar College, took exception to early projections of a renaissance in social science computing, writing that "Orville Vernon Burton's view of 'History's Electric Future' seems to be unduly optimistic." 2 Sutton based his opinion on his experience with inadequate computing hardware and software, excessive cost of computing equipment, lack of access among scholars to computing equipment, and imperfections and limitations in existing scanning, optical character recognition, and library system software. Over the last decade, however, as the renaissance has gained momentum, such frustrations have diminished. The cost of computing is shrinking at an astonishing rate, and the capability of computing is increasing even more rapidly. Sutton worried about the excessive cost and "a lack of administrative support for AT-class PCs for people in the liberal arts." Those ATs, which cost $3,000-5,000 in 1990, today are obsolete and cannot even be given away. Capable 650-megahertz Pentium III machines sold for as little as $1,200 new in 2000. In 2001 a 700-MHz system sells for $700 and a 1,000-megahertz to 1.5-gigahertz Pentium 4 for $1,200. In January 1993 storage capacity in a 300-megabyte hard drive cost $2.16 per megabyte; a year later it cost only 88 cents per megabyte, and in 1997 a 1.6-gigabyte hard drive cost 12.5 cents per megabyte. In 2000 a 60-gigabyte hard drive cost just $5.48 per gigabyte, or about 0.5 cents per megabyte. In 2001, hard drives can be bought for around $100 per 30 gigabytes (or 0.33 cents per megabyte) and around $165 for a 60-gigabyte hard drive ($2.75 per gigabyte or 0.3 cent per megabyte). Industry estimates project a $1.00/gigabyte drive by 2003.

      Universities and colleges have also addressed the problem of access for all students, including those in the liberal arts. Many schools offer computing labs with high-powered machines, and undergraduates often arrive on campus with their own personal computers. Optical character recognition systems, though still fraught with problems, have come far enough in the last few years to make their use practicable for laptops and notepads. Scholars are now scanning censuses, tax records, and books into machine-readable form. Technology forecasters predict that 1,000-MIPS (millions of instructions per second) desktop machines will soon be affordable. In contrast, large mainframe computers of the mid-1980s could handle only 5-10 MIPS.

      Many humanists agree that the computer is valuable as an electronic library, which scholars can peruse at their convenience. The National Science Foundation, recognizing the importance of computers to libraries, made digital libraries one of its grand challenges in 1993. Today we are surprised if a library has not gone digital, and the challenge is to promote creative use by a broader community. 3 Although computers are valuable in cataloguing information, it is the point of this book that computers are vastly more capable than mere information storage devices. As tools for ordering and making sense of information, computers create an environment in which social scientists and humanists can operate.

      This renaissance in computing is not utopian. Technological and philosophical problems remain. The technological difficulties will be cured by technological improvements. But what of the problems with the philosophy and culture of computers themselves and within the particular disciplines themselves? These will take longer to work out. Currently, for example, differing philosophical approaches to sociology divide that discipline. Problems parallel those that economics faced in the 1950s and 1960s and that history and political science faced in the late 1960s and 1970s: Are quantitative techniques an appropriate method for understanding society? Should scholars quantify or not? Once upon a time, the debate included whether or not a scholar should even use a computer. Today social scientists and humanists use computers at the office and home to take notes, organize, write, and communicate via e-mail with colleagues and students. Today's debates now center on how to use the computer. Scholarly use of computers is no longer limited to number crunching. In 1993 NCSA created Mosaic, a definitive piece of software that turned the arcane realm of the World Wide Web into a point-and-click playground for millions of neophytes, helping build the first mass media outlet in computing. NCSA Mosaic was demonstrated at CSS93 to enthusiastic humanists and social scientists. Derivatives of Mosaic, such as Netscape Communicator and Microsoft Explorer, now provide means of communication through the Internet with other libraries and resources throughout the world. Furthermore, the increasing ease with which computers deal with texts is bringing some social scientists closer to the textual and narrative world of the humanities. Soon Web innovations may offer new operating systems and again narrow the distance between the sciences and the humanities.

      History as a discipline has long been divided as to whether it belonged to the humanities or the social sciences. Now, because computers have opened exciting opportunities for historians to work with texts in new and comprehensive ways, the history profession clearly sees itself as part of the humanities. The computer, which some traditional narrative historians despised in the 1960s and 1970s because a group of "New Historians" used it for quantitative analysis, is moving history as a discipline firmly into the humanities and away from the modeling and quantitative techniques generally associated with the social sciences.

      C. P. Snow theorized in 1959 that a dichotomy existed between the world of science and the world of humanities. Optimists will acknowledge that those two worlds are converging. Scientists more than ever are interested in the history of their disciplines and the paradigms that inform the way they work and think. Social scientists are likewise interested in the technological revolution, seeking perspective on the larger impact of technology on our society. 4

      The real computing renaissance begins with creative, even speculative thinking. No longer do social scientists have to alter their methods of inquiry to accommodate the computer; computers are now sufficiently flexible to accommodate the social scientist. Computers can cross spatial, chronological, and interdisciplinary boundaries. A social scientist can now incorporate investigations from history, sociology, geography, political science, literature, and any other discipline into one research question. Technology can help answer real questions as social scientists use computers in creative ways to pursue new and previously impossible avenues of inquiry. A social scientist should use the methodological tool appropriate for the particular problem under investigation. Some social scientists, like some historians before them, are now standing firm against quantitative techniques and computer-derived statistical analysis, thinking that statistical analysis limits the profession. But it is limited only by a lack of imagination. The computer allows revelation and discovery, answers to questions previously unanswerable. And increasingly, as the chapters in this volume illustrate, today's hardware and software are suited to all kinds of research, whether qualitative or quantitative. Indeed, the Web and the resources it offers are so much easier to use than they were in the heyday of quantitative techniques that the new technology might revitalize interest in structural questions for humanists and social scientists. Therein lies the renaissance in supercomputing.

      The real supercomputer is not a $10-million machine sitting in isolated splendor in a high-tech astronomy or physics laboratory; it is the tens of millions of PCs throughout the world, which more and more are linked with mainframes, LANs, servers, databases, and each other through the Internet. These PCs have the computing power of more than 10,000 Cray-1 supercomputers. 5 When this computing power is combined with the ease of communication among scholars, computers can effect a profound change in scholarly disciplines.

      This potential has been realized in specialized forums online. These forums are expanding at an explosive rate. One of the most influential forums is H-Net, the International On-Line Network for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Having begun as a history discussion list on the Internet at the time of CSS93, where Richard Jensen, founder of H-NET, and I, as H-Net treasurer, enlisted supporters, H-Net is now governed by an international council of scholars. It enjoys the support of several institutions, notably Michigan State University, which provides technical infrastructure and administrative staff. Mark Kornbluh, a former chair of H-Net council and professor of history at Michigan State University, has succeeded Jensen as executive director. Under Jensen's and Kornbluh's dynamic leadership, H-Net has expanded to more than 100,000 subscribers internationally with 10 million messages per month. It has pioneered a range of Web-based scholarly publishing ventures such as H-Review, which is now one of the world's largest programs for the review of new monographs in the humanities and social sciences. It has also been a catalyst for innovative use of networked communications for delivering educational resources. In 1997 the American Historical Association awarded H-Net the James Harvey Robinson Prize for the "most outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history in any field." Many subscribers are undergraduate teachers with more than a million students every semester. 6

      Scholarly forums such as H-Net are just one example of how scholars are using computers to reshape the workings of the academy. Cooperation between academicians enlarges the scale and narrows the precision of scholarly inquiry; ultimately it will raise thought processes to a higher plane. High-performance computing, in tandem with extremely powerful individual PCs with Web resources, offers enormous opportunities for scholars to organize, analyze, and comprehend information in ways only dreamed about a few years ago.

      This volume is a collection of innovative thinking about computing in the humanities and social sciences. Included in this book are some of the practical and theoretical aspects of social science computing. Some of the essays offer insight into accessing the complex and growing archive of social science data and mapping out features of the new social science computing environment. Other articles provide feedback from social science and humanities scholars already working in the new environment. They describe how they have used computers to solve long-standing problems and where current limitations are. Other scholars describe how the new environment of social science and humanities computing and electronic information exchange has changed the way academicians think about their disciplines and communicate with each other and with students.

Part 1: The Digital Revolution

The first two chapters take a broad view of the renaissance in social science computing; they get to the very heart of this renaissance, the impact of computers in the classroom. In chapter 1, "Technological Revolutions I Have Known," Edward L. Ayers walks through a gallery of social science technological revolutions. His examples show how each new promise was deflated as yet another innovation replaced what was yesterday's state of the art. Diving into the promise of the Web and the Internet, Ayers calls for using the new media in ways that are challenging intellectually rather than technologically. Rather than worry about the inevitable replacement of current technology, Ayers asks social scientists to take a leading role in shaping research goals. He urges humanists to create the next revolution in computer use with innovative accomplishments. 7

      Randy Bass and Roy Rosenzweig also address the idea of the renaissance and ask whether the new technology is revolutionary in its applicability to learning. In chapter 2, "Rewiring the History and Social Studies Classroom: Needs, Frameworks, Dangers, and Proposals," Bass and Rosenzweig place the digital revolution in historical perspective and address crucial issues for teaching social sciences in the new millennium. Chapter 2 was originally a White Paper prepared for the Department of Education, Forum on Technology in K-12 Education: Envisioning a New Future, December 1, 1999. 8 Although Bass and Rosenzweig focus on K-12 and teaching with information technology, the discussion is applicable to all teaching in the digital age, including the college level. Rosenzweig and Bass draw from their own experiences with workshops sponsored by the American Studies Crossroads Project, the New Media Classroom, and the Library of Congress's American Memory Fellows program and from a nationwide survey of Americans conducted in 1994. Bass, a professor of English, and Rosenzweig, a professor of history, explore three frameworks that promote active learning. Scholars too seldom talk about what goes wrong, but this essay also warns about pitfalls. This essay is a must for anyone who cares about teaching and learning the social sciences and humanities in the twenty-first century.

Part 2: Computing and New Access to Social Science Data

The next two chapters illustrate how scholars have developed and are envisioning the information infrastructure so that new approaches will yield faster and more useful results. Much of the power of computing is realized over the Internet. Some research activities can be accomplished at a fraction of their former cost, making research opportunities available to many scholars who would be unable to afford traditional approaches. Other research activities simply could not have been undertaken before the Internet and the Web. These two chapters examine how researchers use computers to analyze data across chronological and geographic boundaries previously impenetrable because of the sheer quantity of data involved. Social scientists are now exploring content analysis programs and even programs that function on human cognitive models. These essays are not about what social scientists predict for the future but about how social scientists use computers here and now to make enormous and unprecedented advances. And because this knowledge is not limited to one time and place or to one dataset but is transferable, scholars can build on each other's work. These chapters showcase some of the possibilities that await social scientists willing to use datasets. These authors challenge scholars to expand the scope of their research.

      William Sims Bainbridge outlines the general promise of surveys on the Internet in chapter 3, "Validity of Web-Based Surveys: Explorations with Data from 2,382 Teenagers." Scholars are beginning to grapple with this new development of Web resources, and Web-based surveys present special problems and opportunities for researchers. 9 Bainbridge addresses a very current social science problem, and he uses a specific example to draw general conclusions that are applicable to the social science computing community. Too often academicians, when writing about computing, are theoretical, and here Bainbridge offers us practical solutions. Bainbridge was centrally involved with Survey 2000, the extensive Web-based survey carried out in late 1998 by the National Geographic Society. By grounding his study in the reality of Survey 2000, he is able to answer general problems about all Web-based surveys and provide a detailed application. His study of teenagers' responses and the gender differences illustrates a sensitive and creative treatment of the reliability and the dilemmas associated with Web-based surveys. Bainbridge concludes with a valuable, broad view of how experimental methods and stringent sampling can be incorporated in future Web-based surveys. In addition, Bainbridge provides on Wayfarer a set of four modules he created to help with Web-based surveys: "The Year 2100," "Self-Esteem," "Experience," and "Beliefs."

      Solidly rooted in the relationship of modern computing and scholarship, chapter 4, "Computer Environments for Content Analysis: Reconceptualizing the Roles of Humans and Computers," by William Evans stresses that the computer is more than a tool; it is an environment for content analysis. In a thought-provoking essay with implications for all social scientists, Evans rejects the idea of a computer as a sophisticated adding machine, external and isolated from the social scientist, and he recommends that social scientists begin to conceptualize the computer as an entity within which the social scientist operates. Computing is not the same thing as conceptualizing the computation. Evans recommends a computer system design that supports a wide variety of human coding tasks and says that content analysis should adopt artificial intelligence techniques. 10

Part 3: Computers, Social Science, humanities, and the Impact of the New Social Terrain

The third section in this book contains two chapters that describe how computers provide social scientists and humanists with a working environment. As awesome as computing power is in processing numbers and grappling with large datasets, computing benefits to humanists and social scientists go beyond that power. Computers are flexible, able to store, transmit, use, and create information. The rapid pace of changing technology challenges us to exploit these machines efficiently. Using computers as a tool that stimulates creative thinking should help solve real-world problems.

      In chapter 5, "Electronic Texts in the Historical Profession: Perspectives from Across the Scholarly Spectrum," Wendy Plotkin does what no one else has done. In a useful and informative survey of the state of historical publications in the Internet, she discusses the ways in which the Internet has affected historical research and teaching. She looks in particular at the value of electronic primary texts as a historical tool to enhance analysis. Plotkin traces the development of the textual resources available to the historian in electronic form and notes that electronic texts have two principal advantages: they allow broad, easy access to valuable primary materials from remote locations, and they allow systematic searches for words, phrases, or concepts. Plotkin also looks at the disadvantages of electronic texts. Some scholars believe that the physical appearance of the original text is important, some doubt the ability of the computer to improve upon textual analysis, and many question the durability of electronic texts. Plotkin delves into the attitudes of other members of the scholarly community toward electronic texts and the problems electronic texts create for publishers, including cost and copyright issues. Plotkin concludes that these questions may be moot in the near future simply because government and business are shifting rapidly from paper-based communication to electronic communication. Soon electronic texts may comprise much historical evidence, which would increase the incentives for developing text analysis tools. For any person interested in using scholarly resources on the Internet, Plotkin's essay is indispensable.

      We now know that one of the dynamic and largely unexpected explosions of computing power has been the rapid exchange of information through computer networks. Attacking a little-considered area—computer-mediated social activism—Daniel J. Myers, in "Social Activism through Computer Networks" (chapter 6), turns the tables on these networks by using them to analyze the people who use networks. Myers examines computer-assisted communication and computer networks in the formation and function of social movements and collective behavior, noting that very little research has been done on the processes by which activists use computers and the results of this use. Myers outlines key characteristics of computer-mediated communication and the ramifications for social movements. He also identifies potentially fruitful areas for research using the activist computer forum.

Part 4: Philosophical and Ethical Concerns of the Culture of Computing

This final section addresses some consequences and warnings for the renaissance in social science computing. No renaissance is perfect. Every advance brings inherent problems, usually unforeseen, that must be addressed before the promise of a renaissance can be realized. Bass and Rosenzweig reminded us of the disadvantages minorities and historically black colleges experienced in the technological revolution. Bainbridge discussed how women were lagging behind especially in the sciences, but saw some improvement. In chapter 7, "Creating Cybertrust: Illustrations and Guidelines," H. Jeanie Taylor and Cheris Kramarae discuss an ultimate question about this new technological renaissance: Whom does it benefit? Looking specifically at women's and minority men's roles in defining and using computers, Taylor and Kramarae consider a variety of problems and offer a list of concrete solutions. With so little study of gender and minority participation in the digital age, the issues Taylor and Kramarae address are significant and call out for more research and discussion.

      In chapter 8, "Electronic Networks for International Research Collaboration: Implications for Intellectual Property Protection in the Early Twenty-first Century," Carole Ganz-Brown cautions that traditional concepts of ownership of information are being challenged, if not overrun, by the rapid growth of electronic networks. In this informative and provocative essay, Ganz-Brown points out that electronic networks have exposed an inherent contradiction in the doctrine of intellectual property: Intellectual property systems aim to promote public disclosure of intellectual works while conferring on the creators the exclusive rights to distribute their works. With a lucid explanation of the legal issues surrounding intellectual property protection, Ganz-Brown raises an issue that scholars must confront as they embark upon the renaissance in social science computing.

      It is possible that the humanities and social sciences, because they have not traditionally made heavy use of computing power, will use computers more creatively than other disciplines. Social scientists will bring fresh perspectives and ask, rightly so, what the computer can do for social science rather than what the social scientist can do for the computer. Although knowledge of computer operation and programming language is valuable to social scientists, the principal goal of social science is the acquisition of relevant knowledge. Previously, social scientists and humanists had difficulties using computers creatively because they first had to set their projects aside and gain detailed knowledge of computers. Just as automobiles were of limited use when it was necessary to be a roadside mechanic as well as a driver, the promise held out by computers was ephemeral as long as scholars and teachers also had to be computer scientists. As computing technology has evolved, these barriers have fallen. Computers are now accessible to every social science and humanities scholar. Despite all the monumental gains in computers as discussed in this book of essays, the technology will never again be as primitive as it is right now; technology will only continue to improve. These essays illustrate the hopes and the frustrations of computing. This is the brink of a new age, and the future of the social sciences and humanities calls for optimism. The renaissance is upon us.


The accompanying CD-ROM, Wayfarer, includes multimedia entries such as the Global Jukebox, by folklorist Alan Lomax, interesting to read about but alive, vibrant, and spirited on the CD-ROM. This interactive system maps the universe of human expressive behavior with an illustrated geography of song and dance that illuminates the worldview of historians of culture. Even in its prototype stage, the Global Jukebox allows a user to explore the main regions of human song (with excerpts available from about 130 songs and 50 dances) to explore their distinctive characteristics and acquire an appreciative overview of music and dance in their global cultural settings.

      Brian Orland's essay, "Visualizing Wildlife Population Dynamics: The Powerful Owl," demonstrates the efficacy of the World Wide Web and CD-ROM in exhibiting papers. Orland uses the capability of online publishing to express complex problems with interactive visual displays. He created bird population models to exemplify interactions between the vegetative and wildlife components of forest ecology. Concrete examples bring clarity to simple correlations as well as more complex log or U-shaped relationships, and computer interface tools and interactive representations display these processes. Orland describes his creation of a museum exhibit where a user can manipulate variables relating to an owl population and view the effects in various graphic forms. This project taps into the new power of interactive multimedia, with significant benefits for teaching and learning.

      Other treats on the CD-ROM include anthropologist and former Social Science Computing Association president Doug White's PGRAPH, a kinship network analysis program that studies and analyzes marriage and family structures within a given community. Sociologists Gillian Stevens and Tim Futing Liao present programs useful to demographers. Political scientists Michael McBurnett and Thad A. Brown present their paper, "The Emergence of Elites through Adaptive Interaction and the Consequences for Stability in Political Science," along with simulation models investigating the role of elites in the American political order. Using a series of dynamic lattice computer models, McBurnett and Brown explore how they believe interdependent elite hierarchies develop and influence our political system.

      Another exciting entry in the Wayfarer collection is RiverWeb, a multimedia interactive archive of information on the Mississippi River that is particularly well suited for use in distance education. This interdisciplinary collaboration, which I directed and which is managed and maintained by David Herr and Ian Binnington, graduate students in history at UIUC, brings together resources, information, and technology to explore the history, culture, and science of the Mighty Mississippi in a unique and significant milieu. The CD-ROM includes one portion of a "landing site" along the Mississippi River, East St. Louis. This East St. Louis site incorporates the history of the city, the musical scene including the blues, the development of steamboats on the Mississippi, and contemporary East St. Louis with its community and neighborhood projects. Together with the East St. Louis Action Research Project (ESLARP), an endeavor of the University of Illinois Department of Landscape Architecture, RiverWeb brings a missing past to residents of both the city and the world, providing information from yesteryear that people can use today.

      Harnessing the potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web has become a primary concern among humanists. In "The 'Pictures of Health' Project," Paul Turnbull, elected the first president of H-Net in 2000, reflects on using the Web in teaching the history of the social sciences, truly part of the current renaissance. Turnbull's article deals with networked digital information systems and the ways in which computing is increasingly being used in the social sciences and humanities and the challenges we consequently face. Turnbull is asking the most relevant question about computer technology: How is it connected to the changes now affecting scholarly culture? He offers us a case study in which the technology was used creatively to address disturbing assumptions about the relationships between technology and social change. He discusses the motivation, aims, and outcomes of integrating a series of online interactive learning exercises, tutorials, and consultation facilities within an advanced undergraduate course at James Cook University. Essentially, he set students to explore how statistical techniques and new technologies such as photography were used by several leading nineteenth-century social scientists. Students were encouraged to see how anxieties about population increase, industrialization, and the growth of cities found expression in the knowledge these scientists produced. In the process, students were invited to reflect on how their own understanding and uses of new technologies might be subject to the influences of wider economic and cultural forces. Turnbull's essay highlights the ways in which virtual teaching and learning is developing in similar cultural contexts. Turnbull discusses Web-based teaching and offers practical experience from an extensive project by one of the leading scholars in these technologies. Moreover, the same type of procedure Turnbull discusses is necessary today for anyone wanting to teach history in an Internet-based environment. The international context of Turnbull's essay is especially important because U.S. scholars need to be aware of the different problems faced in different educational contexts, and this essay gives an American audience some insight into the particular problems and opportunities of computers in a different cultural context. Wayfarer users will be able to explore Turnbull's Web site.

      In "Representing Metadata with Intelligent Agents: An Initial Prototype," Albert F. Anderson, 1996 president of the Social Science Computing Association, and co-authors Edward Brent and G. Alan Thompson deal with the problems of large datasets such as the U.S. Bureau of the Census Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS), Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), and Supersample. This paper and these scholars' work are visionary as they describe two prototype modules and their PDQ-Explore system, which works as an active agent. This paper addresses what the Web offers scholars in the way of data sources and suggests better ways to access large stores of information. Where might computers take social scientists, or are these paths unpredictable? What can social scientists do with computers, and what computing tools and skills do social scientists need? Social scientists have used the computer as a machine for statistical analysis or storing large (and often unwieldy) quantities of information, but this paper focuses instead on information management and manipulation. Users of Wayfarer may use this prototype readily to generate tables from millions of records in a matter of seconds. The PDQ-Explore system represents a realization of the promise of high-performance information and computing technology to work with large, complex datasets, without the previous penalties of excessive time, cost, and technical prowess. 11

      William deB. Mills, in "Forests or Trees: Clear Thinking about Social Science Systems," discusses how to use computers creatively. He presents a set of generic dimensions along which all biological systems can be compared. Mills argues that this focus on system performance in generic dimensions allows insight into the underlying causes of policy problems, insights that might otherwise be obscured by overemphasis on superficial descriptive details. On Wayfarer, Mills includes his software System 101, which readers may use to implement his carefully described approach. 12

      In addition to such state-of-the-art essays, Wayfarer provides a summary of the major trends and issues of the computing revolution for social science of the last decade. Selected revised papers from CSS93, as well as updated papers from later CSS conferences and solicited other papers, are on Wayfarer. Some of the essays are placed in their historical context; for example, a historical snapshot of where social scientists believed they were and where they predicted computing was going in 1995 is found in Bruce Tonn, "Using the National Information Infrastructure for Social Science, Education, and Informed Decision Making: A White Paper." Tonn, former president of the Social Science Computing Association, held a round-table discussion at CSS93 of "Grand Challenges for the Social Sciences" where participants debated issues in social science computing. From that discussion, Tonn began a White Paper elucidating the challenges for social science computing and computing needs for the next generation.

      The preceding examples are just a sampling of the programs available on the CD-ROM. Other authors in the written volume have also included programs on the CD-ROM. These programs make visible and concrete what the chapters in this printed volume portend. Videos, graphs, color pictures, and illustrations of geographic information systems (GIS illustrations) accompany the essays. Applications and datasets give readers the first-hand excitement of the research as the authors and research teams share their experiences.

      Wayfarer also has connections to many World Wide Web sites, including a link to a Web site devoted to the CD-ROM itself. In addition, it contains a collection of sites in itself; for those working remotely with no Internet access and those with a slow Internet connection, these offline Web sites make it possible to appreciate fully the nature of the material. For those with Internet access, Wayfarer's Web links move seamlessly from the CD-ROM to the Web, enabling the reader to experience the full power of the medium.

      Wayfarer is intended to benefit those interested in assessing how to harness effectively the Internet and computers for teaching and research. All in all, wonders await the readers willing to try Wayfarer, readers willing to enter into the renaissance in social science and humanities computing.


      1. J. David Bolter, Turing's Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984).

      2. Orville Vernon Burton, "History's Electric Future," in OAH Newsletter 17: 4 (November 1989): 12-13, replied to by Walter A. Sutton, "Another View: History's Electric Future," OAH Newsletter 18: 2 (May 1990): 6.

      3. Another challenge is convincing the latest generation of college students that not all information is online. Students often are surprised that libraries have holdings and archives that are not available in digital format.

      4. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures: And a Second Look (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1965). Part 1, the Rede Lecture, was published in 1959. See also the critique by F. R. Leavis and Michael Yudkin, Two Cultures?: The Significance of C. P. Snow and an Essay on Sir Charles Snow's Rede Lecture (New York: Pantheon, 1963).

      5. Larry L. Smarr, "The Computational Science Revolution: Technology, Methodology, and Sociology," in High-Speed Computing: Scientific Applications and Algorithm Design, ed. Robert B. Wilhelmson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988); William J. Kaufmann III and Larry L. Smarr, Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science (New York: Scientific American Library/W. H. Freeman, 1993).

      6. See Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, "Envisioning the Future: Arts and Letters in the Digital Age," on Wayfarer.

      7. See Ayers's own technological revolution, "The Valley of the Shadow," an award-winning multimedia study of the Civil War as experienced in two communities, Northern Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and Southern Staunton, Virginia, on Wayfarer.

      8. An earlier version of this essay first appeared in The Journal of Education 181: 3 (1999): 41-61.

      9. See the special issue of Social Science Computer Review 18: 4 (Winter 2000) on "Survey and Statistical Computing in the New Millennium.

      10. See also Lyn Richards, "Qualitative Software Meets Qualitative Method: QSR's NUD*IST 4 and NVivo as Results," and the accompanying content analysis programs, QSR NUD*IST 4.0 and NVivo, on Wayfarer. Qualitative Solutions and Research's NUD*IST 4.0 program (originally programmed by Tom Richards and designed by Lyn Richards) and NVivo are multifunctional software systems for developing, supporting, and managing qualitative data analysis projects. With NUD*IST 4.0 and NVivo, scholars can analyze unstructured data, such as text from interviews, historical or legal documents, or nontextual documentary material such as videotapes.

      11. See also "Interactive Access to Large Census Data Sets," by Albert F. Anderson and his son, Paul H. Anderson, and try the PDQ EXPLORE application on Wayfarer.

      12. For further exploration of Mills's argument that we should understand computers as tools to enhance creativity rather than devices to improve our efficiency, see "Working Smarter: Computers as Stimulants for Human Creativity" and his other applications on Wayfarer.





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