Micki Kaufman gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, November 15, at 12:15 pm. Her talk was entitled “Quantifying Kissinger: Computational Analysis and Data Visualization in Historical Interpretation.”

More than any other former Secretary of State or National Security Advisor, the public “celebrity” of Dr. Henry Kissinger is uniquely well known in American popular culture. Fixed in the public consciousness for his leadership of the Nixon administration’s foreign policy from 1968 to 1977, the contradictions between Kissinger’s well-documented public persona and his more secret conduct still mystify, polarize, and fascinate historians and the general public alike. Historians grappling with the complexities of his actions and character soon encounter a second problem—one of scale. A classic “big data” catch-22, the extensive and vast array of material available for study greatly complicates the task of historically situating and interpreting Kissinger’s persona and policies. This kind of deluge of information is an increasingly common frustration for historians of the twentieth century, and as larger and larger archives of human cultural output are accumulated, scholars are beginning to adapt, develop, and employ tools, methods, and interpretive frameworks from fields like computational linguistics, visual design, and textual studies that can overcome “information overload” and facilitate historical interpretations of “big data” archival collections. In this talk, Kaufman will discuss her project Quantifying Kissinger, detailed on the website blog.quantifyingkissinger.com. The project is an historical interpretation of the National Security Archive’s Kissinger Collection, a focused but substantial subset of the torrent of material generated by Kissinger that comprises over 18,000 declassified meeting memoranda (‘memcons’) and teleconference transcripts (‘telcons’). The project combines novel computational text analysis, data visualization, and interpretive methods to provide new insights into complex historical subjects and to validate and promote the use of such methods in “big data” historical research.

Micki Kaufman earned her MA and MPhil in US History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she is currently a doctoral candidate. She earned her BA in US History summa cum laude from Columbia University. She is a co-author of “General, I Have Fought Just As Many Nuclear Wars As You Have,” published in the December 2012 American Historical Review. In 2015 she was awarded the ACH and ADHO’s Lisa Lena and Paul Fortier Prizes for best Digital Humanities paper worldwide by an emerging scholar for her dissertation, “‘Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me:’ Quantifying Kissinger.” In 2016 she was elected to serve on the Executive Council of the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH).