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CASA Working Paper 168

6 July 2011

The Humanities and Social Sciences in a Technological Age

The first task is to assert the core values of the humanities and the social sciences and then to explore the challenges and opportunities for these disciplines in a technological age. It is argued that progress will be enhanced through interdisciplinarity. What does the technological age offer these disciplines? Certainly, a new kind of society to understand; but, directly, computing power and the internet. These offer unprecedented access to data - both contemporary and archival - and so new research opportunities together with the challenge of inventing search engines that maximise these opportunities.

The combination of interdisciplinarity and computing power generates new research that crosses humanities and social science boundaries. This will be illustrated by three examples: modelling the evolution of contemporary retail structures, combining ideas from geography, economics, physics and ecology; modelling settlement structures in ancient Greece, thus bringing contemporary social science into archaeology; and modelling the evolution of the United States urban system from 1790 to 1870, illustrating the impact of the railways.

The lecture concludes by briefly reviewing the potential impact of new research on public policy and makes recommendations to both government and academia.

This working paper is available as a PDF. The file size is 3.25MB.

Authors: Alan Wilson

Publication Date: 1/7/2001

Download working paper No. 168.