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  • Behold, a database that tracks more than 500 episodes of The Simpsons

    The Atlantic - 09/08/2014

    What is The Simpsons? It’s a television show, certainly—specifically, the longest-running American sitcom of all time. It’s a cultural touchstone. It’s a delight. But it’s also an archival collection—25 years’ worth of characters, themes, stories, and scripts.

    To celebrate the show’s quarter-century of existence, fans are being treated to projects that capitalize on this documentary breadth. There’s the marathon of the show that’s been airing on the cable network FXX; the social media conversation that has accompanied the marathon; the new app, Simpsons World, that will function like a DVD box set for the show, with even more extras. But there’s another Simpsons project Fox isn’t responsible for: a searchable database. One that has taken every episode of The Simpsons and made it, in its way, interactive. As Homer might put it: “Mmmmmm, searchability.”

    As Homer could also put it, though: “Mmmmmm, digital humanities.” The project is the work of Ben Schmidt, a professor of digital and intellectual history at Northeastern University. Schmidt works in the field of the digital humanities, meaning he focuses on applying computational approaches to things like books, newspapers, and other pieces of literature.

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