Journal article Open Access

Historic machines from 'prams' to 'Parliament': new avenues for collaborative linguistic research

Ridge, Mia; Tolfo, Giorgia; Westerling, Kalle; Pedrazzini, Nilo; McGillivray, Barbara

Last, Christina; Vane, Olivia

Abstract for long paper, DH Benelux 2022: RE-MIX. Creation and alteration in DH (Hybrid), 1-3 June 2022.

Research in computational linguistics has made successful attempts at modelling word meaning at scale, but much remains to be done to put these computational models to the test of historical scholarship (see e.g. Beelen et al. 2021). More importantly, a lot of computational research looks at texts in a historical vacuum, 'synchronically', as linguists would say. Living with Machines is an interdisciplinary research project that rethinks the impact of technology on the lives of ordinary people during the Industrial Revolution (Ahnert et al. 2021). During this project, we decided to address a fundamental question: what did people mean by ‘machine’ and how has this meaning changed over time?

This paper outlines how a simple research question like 'what was a machine?' can provide an opportunity to engage the public with our work while also generating data for analysis and new avenues of research in a radically collaborative way.

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