Spotlight on the Digital Innovation Group

Harnessing computational power for the history of science.

In the Fall 2015 semester, more than two dozen computer science and humanities students spent nine hours each week in a small lab in the basement of the Life Sciences tower. As members of the "Research Methods and Software Engineering Workshop for Computational Humanities and Knowledge Systems” course, their goal was to harness the power of 21st-century computer technology to yield new insights into the historical and conceptual development of modern science by collaborating across disciplines.

This new, experimental course was developed by the Digital Innovation Group (DigInG) at ASU.

DigInG was established in 2012 as part of President’s Professor Manfred Laubichler’s research lab in the School of Life Sciences at ASU. Then-PhD students Julia Damerow, a computer scientist, and Erick Peirson, an historian of biology, started DigInG as a way to advance software development projects in the lab. Damerow is now a Scientific Software Engineer in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, and Peirson is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complexity

DigInG emphasizes true collaboration between humanists and engineers--a feature that sets it apart from most digital humanities labs around the world. This collaborative approach, members of DigInG have found, create enormous educational and research opportunities, pushing students to think and communicate in new and unexpected ways.

DigInG has recently extended its purview, and now provides innovative training and project support for students and researchers across the university and beyond. As a member of the Digital HPS Consortium, an interest group in the digital and computational history and philosophy of science, and in collaboration with the Nexus Lab for Digital Humanities and Transdisciplinary Informatics, DigInG now brings together technologists and humanists from a wide range of backgrounds and skills to push the boundaries of computational analysis in the humanities.

A complete list of DigInG research and software projects can be found here.

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Erick Peirson