There is a widely reported press release around the world today identifying Christopher Marlowe as a co-author of Henry VI. Shakespeare experts have used a variety of databases to compare writing styles of Shakespeare and Marlowe, who has long been considered as a contemporary rival, to determine that they did in fact work together, at least on this play.
With the use of databases and analytical software it is now easier than ever to determine such things as authorship, GPS co-ordinates of a photographer, and subtle changes to a draft document. While we now expect that every key stroke will be captured and recorded, authors and artists of the past are now being caught up in the Big Data world. Techniques to analyse brush strokes made by artists can determine whether a painting is a forgery, in much the same way as Marlowe is belatedly getting the recognition that those of us who enjoyed Dr Faustus at university think he's long deserved!
Which should probably serve as a warning as we head into the school and university exam season here in New Zealand - cheating and plagiarism in academic works and exams have been problems for probably as long as man has been able to write - but now that digital technology is able to assist the mind of a tired school or university exam marker things have just got a bit more difficult for those seeking to take credit where perhaps it's not due.
But I'm sure that Christopher Marlowe will finally be smiling up there, now that his name is up in lights alongside the main event after all this time.
Shakespeare has entered the world of Big Data