William J. Turkel
PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 2004
Telephone: 519-661-2111 ext. 87433
Office: Lawson Hall 2267
Office Hours: by appointment Winter: Mondays 2:30pm SSC 1004
I do computational history, big history, computational social science, STS, physical computing, desktop fabrication and electronics. My recent monograph Spark from the Deep (2013) is available in inexpensive electronic and hardback editions. My first book, The Archive of Place (2007), is also available online. I write code every day.
Major Research Projects
In addition to a number of ongoing research collaborations in digital history, I am currently working on three projects. One is a study of attempts to build a self-replicating device, from the machine tools of the Industrial Revolution to the RepRaps of today. As part of this research, I have built a series of 3D printers and other CNC tools. The second project is a study of mid-20th-century analog electronic computing. My colleagues and I are reverse engineering the vacuum-tube-based computers of the 1930s, 40s and 50s using the transistors and analog integrated circuits that became available a generation later. The third project is a study of what Edward Jones-Imhotep and I call ‘the universal scientific instrument’. Over the past two hundred years, most scientific instrumentation has come to take the form of a domain-specific front end which transduces signals into electronic form, and a universal back end which processes them. There is a more extensive summary of my work in my Research Statement (2014).
This coming year I will be teaching Mathematica programming, research methods, digital history and interactive exhibit design in undergraduate and graduate courses. I continue to collaborate with colleagues and students on the community edition of The Programming Historian and on applying methods like experimentation, text mining and machine learning to historical research. Students I am currently working with include Devon Elliott, Tristan Johnson and Carla Joubert. Past students include Adam Crymble and Rebecca Woods. Ian Milligan and Daniel Rueck are former postdocs. I am happy to discuss research opportunities with potential students and collaborators any time.
There is a lot more information about my work on my personal website.
- (with Devon Elliott) "Making and Playing with Models: Using Rapid Prototyping to Explore the History and Technology of Stage Magic," in Kevin Kee, ed. PastPlay: History, Technology and the Return to Playfulness, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.
- (with Ian Milligan) "The Challenge of 'High-Throughput' Computational Methods," in Barry Rodrigue, Leonid Grinin, and Andrey Korotayev, eds., From Big Bang to Global Civilization: A Big History Anthology, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
- (with Spencer Roberts and Kevin Kee) "A Method for Navigating the Infinite Archive," in Toni Weller, ed., History in the Digital Age, London: Routledge, 2012.
Selected Journal Articles
- (with Devon Elliott and Rob MacDougall) "New Old Things: Fabrication, Physical Computing, and Experiment in Historical Practice," Canadian Journal of Communication 37, no.1 (April 2012):121-128.
- "Hacking History, from Analog to Digital and Back Again," Rethinking History 15, no. 2 (March 2011): 287-296.
- (with Daniel J. Cohen, Michael Frisch, Patrick Gallagher, Steven Mintz, Kirsten Sword, Amy Murrell Taylor and William G. Thomas, III) "Interchange: the Promise of Digital History," Journal of American History 95, no. 2 (September 2008): 442-51.
Selected Research Funding
- with Alan MacEachern (principal investigator), Laura Cameron, Stephane Castonguay, Colin Coates, Matthew Evenden, Liza Piper, and Graeme Wynn. "NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment," SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Clusters Grant, 2007-14.
- with Jentery Sayers (principal investigator). "Humanities Physical Computing and Fabrication for Cultural Heritage," SSHRC Insight, 2013-17.
- with Ian Milligan (principal investigator). "An Infinite Archive? Developing HistoryCrawler to Explore the Internet Archive as a Historical Resource," SSHRC Insight Development, 2013-15.
- "Computational History," SSHRC Insight Development, 2011-13.
- "The Path to the Self-Replicating Machine," SSHRC Research Development Initiatives, 2009-11.
- with Dan Cohen, Tim Hitchcock, Geoffrey Rockwell (principal investigators), Joerg Sander, Bob Shoemaker, Stéfan Sinclair and Sean Takats. "Using Zotero and TAPoR on the Old Bailey Proceedings: Data Mining with Criminal Intent," NEH/JISC/SSHRC Digging into Data Challenge Grant, 2009-11.
Awards and Distinctions