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Professor Spotlight: Dr. Harvey Quamen (University of Alberta)

Written by Adam Vassallo

Episode 6 of Adam Vassallo‘s Prof Talks podcast features Dr. Harvey Quamen of University of Alberta. In this episode, they talked about computing and the humanities. Here’s our takeaways:

Dr. Harvey Quamen

  • Associate Professor, English & Humanities Computing, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB, Canada)


  • B.A., University of Minnesota
  • M.A., University of Iowa
  • Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

Research Interests:

  • Digital Humanities
  • Science and Literature (especially 19th– and 20th-centuries)
  • Data Visualization

Key Takeaways

What to Know:

  • The humanities are moving into this big data era and we’re thinking about literature at scales that’s beyond human readability. For example, Matt Jocker at Nebraska is doing a project on 3,500 Victorian novels. If you read 350 per year, a novel a day, that’s 10 years of reading. So, it’s not really humanly possible to comprehend literature at that scale.
  • You can have a spreadsheet of 3,500 novels, but it really doesn’t communicate a story about what’s happening in the literature. Data visualization does that.
  • To analyze mass amounts of literature you need electronic texts. This can be a struggle because of copyright. Literary scholars really follow the debate about copyright because there’s the Mickey Mouse rule. Every time Mickey Mouse starts to approach the end of Disney’s copyright, Disney lobby’s the U.S. government and others to extend their copyright longer.
  • Another issue is that a lot of things like 19th century newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and brochures were never digitized.

What to Check Out:

Where to Hear More:

Prof Talks is a podcast series hosted by Adam Vassallo. Over 100 days, Adam interviewed 100 notable professors.  He inquired about what led them to their field, their research interests, and their predictions for the future. Learn more at


Listening Is The New Reading

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.