Co-director of the Lab Matthew Jockers was featured in the Stanford Report on December 1st in an article provocatively titled, “Non-consumptive research? Text mining? Welcome to the hotspot of humanities research at Stanford.” Why non-consumptive? Because in this kind of work one doesn’t necessarily aim to read, or to consume, the object of research. Jockers:
“Traditionally we’ve studied literature piecemeal – one book at a time,” said Jockers. “But computation and the digitalization of libraries have now made it possible to study literature as a much larger system.”
The story was also carried by Palo Alto Patch, and a few days later appeared in the “ArtsBeat” blog of the New York Times in a post by Patricia Cohen. Responding via comment to Cohen’s reported distaste for the term “non-consumptive research,” Jockers explains the origin of the term in more detail:
The term “Non Consumptive Research” is not mine and is not one that we use in the Literary Lab at Stanford. To the best of my knowledge, the term comes from Google and was coined to describe their idea of developing a research corpus that would include copyrighted works–and would therefore need to be non-consumptive. The author of the Stanford Report article pulled the term out of the Grant proposal that Mellon funded this year.
I use the term “macroanalysis” to describe my research methodology and I liken it to macroeconomics. E.g. Microeconomics is to close-reading what macroeconomics is to “distant-reading” (Moretti’s term). Moretti’s term captures the theoretical dimensions of our work and mine the methodological.