Coding the Past: The Challenges and Promise of Large-Scale Cultural Databases

With funding from the John Templeton Foundation, the Santa Fe Institute, and the Center for Collaborative Synthesis in Archaeology, this project brings together archaeologists, historians and cultural evolutionary theorists for an initial meeting to: 1) receive an introduction to a new research tool known as the Database of Religious History; 2) get hands-on experience creating entries and using its built-in analytical tools; 3) provide feedback on its design and data-gathering approach; and 4) suggest new analyses that could be performed using the database in conjunction with other data sources. Participants will discuss the challenges inherent to the DRH project and others like it, including converting qualitative information scattered across field reports, monographs and journal articles into the sort of quantitative data that is required to test hypotheses about cultural evolutionary dynamics against the historical record. Themes to be discussed include the unique costs and benefits of working directly with humanities scholars, the challenges involved in making categorical judgments when dealing with complex and often patchy archaeological and textual data, and the various uses to which large-scale cultural databases can be put. The results of this meeting will set the agenda for a longer-term effort.

The deadline for receipt of applications is June 1, 2022.

For more information and for application instructions, click here.

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