Campbell Yamane on Data and Research

By The Digital Humanities Editorial Team

Campbell Yamane graduated in June 2018 with a degree in cognitive science and the digital humanities minor.

Why did you initially get involved with the digital humanities program?

I was interested in the technical aspects of the minor, but there are a ton of technical majors that are just very one-track minded. I wanted to do technical work, but explain it to people who don’t understand the numbers, using some more soft skills.

What has been your favorite experience so far?

Definitely my research. Todd [Presner]  gave me a lot of leeway to go and explore the data and find things that he might not have necessarily been looking for.

Tell me a bit about your research into holocaust testimonies? What got you interested?

Professor Presner told me he was looking for paid research students, something about Holocaust survivor testimonials. It seemed interesting, and I didn’t know a lot about the Holocaust. All I knew is we were going to be working with a lot of data.

What kind of data?

Mostly qualitative data about what the survivors discussed – quantitative if you count things like duration and time. It was a database filled with people’s stories – 50,000 in total.

What was the most interesting part?

My research was to find trends in the testimonials and visualize them. We had to take a hard turn midway through- we thought we’d just look at the keywords and see if there was any familiarity in what they would talk about. But when we started looking at the audio data, it was more interesting to see how people’s voices correlate to the stories they are telling. We could find the peaks and drops in the voice, and all of a sudden you have a pattern.

Do you have any advice for students interested in the major?

If they are interested in combining multiple aspects of academia, in terms of hard skills and soft skills, this is a minor for you. It’s kind of a new way of looking at how people interact with each other and their digital tools.  Digital humanities is all about using the quantitative to analyze the qualitative.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. DH is such a new area of study, there’s a lot of leeway. It’s all about new ways to examine the human experience. If you think you have an idea or that you’re too young, it can be a great idea and DH is the place to explore that.