Skip to content

NULab Faculty Interview: Ryan Cordell

By Kevin Smith

This is the first of a series of interviews with NULab faculty we will be posting here. Former NULab fellow, Kevin Smith, sat down with Assistant Professor Ryan Cordell to talk about the NULab, his current research, and what music he would take to a desert island.

KS: What current research are you most excited about?

RC: I’m most excited about various ways we are expanding the Viral Texts project. I have an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship, which is going to allow us to begin bringing international newspapers into the study. We’ll be spending some time working with Australian newspapers, British newspapers, German newspapers, and perhaps even some other European newspapers. We will be trying to look at reprinting across national boundaries and perhaps even across languages. That’s what I’m most excited about at the moment.

And then, as one part of the Proteus project, I am excited about building a more general purpose tool that other scholars will be able to use to do this kind of duplicate detection that we’ve been doing with Viral Texts.

KS: How has the NULab affected or enabled your research projects?

RC: Certainly this research wouldn’t be happening at all without the faculty hiring that’s gone on with the NULab and the various collaborators that it’s put me in touch with. Working actively with, rather. And beyond that, benefitting from the expertise of colleagues both those who are explicitly part of the project but also those who are just a part of the NULab who have certainly helped me do more sophisticated kinds of network analyses, for example, that I couldn’t have done without the NULab.

KS: The NULab is an interdisciplinary research group. How do you see your research intersecting with computational social science (CSS)?

RC: There are some explicit intersections and some that I think are a little bit less explicit, but that I would be keen on exploring a bit more.

In the most explicit way, I’ve certainly benefitted a lot from the methodological expertise of a lot of the CSS faculty, particularly around network analysis. When I came to Northeastern I was interested in network analysis but I didn’t really have any expertise in it. Through workshops here and then more one-on-one work with post-docs and colleagues who do this as a more central part of their work, I have gained a fair proficiency with the method. I am able to talk about it as something other than just a tool I sort of employ without knowledge. I have some understanding of the underlying structure of the network analysis tools.

And then, more tangentially: a lot of the kinds of text reuse that we have uncovered in Viral Texts really are not the kinds of things that literary scholars tend to deal with. They tend to be more from fields like political history. So, I think there is potential for more collaboration around those content types as we move forward.

KS: Situating NULab within the framework of NU, where would you like to see it go in the next five years or so; or, if it were to grow would you like to see more outreach or more internal support

RC: Some kind of funding for faculty development and I don’t mean for faculty currently associated with NULab, I mean faculty interested in getting involved with NULab. And also graduate student development in the same line—fellowships for people who have their own project that they want to develop, but they don’t have the kinds of expertise necessarily they need. If we are a working group, I would like to have a kind of door into that working group for more people.

KS: Last question is desert island jukebox: you are stranded on a desert island and can bring five albums with you, which albums do you choose?

RC: Okay, here goes. Lord help me, I’m trying to be honest. And I’m including 6.

Counting Crows – August and Everything After
Toad the Wet Sprocket – Dulcinea
Jump, Little Children – Live at Dock Street
The National – Boxer
The Decemberists – The King is Dead
Patty Griffin – American Kid

More Stories

An image of the room where the NULab 2024 Spring Conference was held

NULab Spring Conference 2024 Recap

A wordcloud describing the most search words with slavery and American largest

NULab Research Project: LLMs, Literature and History


Eleven Plus: A Generation Poised