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Jewish Studies

Home » Past Events » 2/6/2015: UCLA's Todd Presner visits Vanderbilt

2/6/2015: UCLA's Todd Presner visits Vanderbilt

UCLA’s Professor of Germanic Languages, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies, Todd Presner will speak at Vanderbilt on Friday, February 6th from 11:10-12:30, 123 Buttrick Hall

“The Ethics of the Algorithm: Close and Distant Listening to the Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive.”

With more than 52,000 testimonies, 100,000 hours of video footage, and a database of some 6 million records, the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive is the largest archive of Holocaust testimony in the world. But more than an archive of eyewitness testimony, it is also an information management system, a patented digital library, and a generalizable database for indexing and cataloging genocide. This talk examines how forms of computation – specifically databases, data structures, algorithms, and information visualizations – function as specific modes of historical emplotment that raise significant ethical questions. Through an investigation of the entirety of the Shoah Foundation’s database, Presner shows how computational analysis can be “read against itself” in order to reveal certain assumptions and patterns in the data. In so doing, he argues for the development of an “ethics of the algorithm” based on insights from the Jewish ethical tradition.

Presner’s research focuses on European intellectual history, the history of media, visual culture, digital humanities, and cultural geography.  He is the author or co-author of three books.

For driving directions to Vanderbilt University and locations of public parking, please refer to the vicinity map and Vanderbilt Traffic and Parking‘s website. For directions once you’re on campus, please refer to the campus map.