The WestGrid-sponsored workshop "Mind the Gap: Bridging HPC and the Humanities" took place this week, showcasing some very interesting collaborative work between HPC and the Humanities.
As someone with a keen interest in history, the novel work of two University of Guelph post-graduate students was of particular interest. This project sought to take what they call "fuzzy data" — census information that was filled out by hand between 1851 and 1911 — and create longitudinal data that can be used to identify an individual from decade to decade.
Previously a historian would do this identification by hand. The program explored through this workshop however, uses the computational power of HP computers, which at this point in the project is rendering linkage rates of 8-22%, depending on the province, ethnic group, and other variables.
What is especially exciting to me is the possibility of using such a program myself one day, over the Internet. The ability to trace ones lineage, and to better understand the past through statistically accurate representations of population, economy, and household structure, are very interesting indeed. And to one day have this information and other such tools at our fingertips could transform the ways that history is explored.
Bringing the humanities and HPC worlds together is very important to advance humanities research, and share common resources and interests across disciplines. Using local WestGrid facilities, researchers at the conference were able to collaboratively prototype research problems, and spark dialogue between researchers in the humanities and researchers/staff associated with HPC at the University of Alberta.
For more information about this workshop, please click here.