Research Management

Last fall (when the world was still open), I attended Scout Calvert’s workshop “Crash Course in Research Data Management,” and I couldn’t believe how much I learned. I’d previously helped create rudimentary data management plans during my time as a project manager, but never something as in detail as was described in this workshop. At the time, I didn’t have my own project in mind, so I’m very excited to hear Calvert’s presentation today now that I will be able to apply it directly to my research.

I met with Kristen Mapes last week to discuss my tentative idea for a digital research project, and through this conversation I realized how far I had to go in terms of data curation/management before I could even begin to start thinking in terms of creating data visualizations–I felt like one of the humanists in Miriam Posner’s transcript of her talk “Humanities Data: A Necessary Contradiction“, and it didn’t occur to me that of course the data had to come before my manipulation of it. Therefore, I’m now scaling back my project idea for this class but I think in a very useful way; my goal is now to create a database on information regarding people involved in specific theatre spaces in Early Modern London (starting with Henslowe’s Diary) that can then be used to potentially build digital projects such as social networks.

Julia Flanders and Trevor Muñoz’s essay “An Introduction to Data Curation” was extremely helpful in refining my ideas as to how data would play a role in my humanities research. While I was familiar with the actual process of creating a sustainable data management plan, I hadn’t really thought through how humanists use data differently and how that might influence data curation. In particular, I am interested in further thinking through in which the interpretation of the data may be just as valuable as the data itself. Additionally, the idea that the conversations that occur and records of responsibility based on this interpretive layering and supplements the data in other ways. As my project seems to be shaping up as a kind of database, it is important that I consider these humanistic approaches to data in order to keep my project rooted in the literary historical framework I’m working within.

In his short essay “Defining Data for Humanists: Text, Artifact, Information or Evidence?,” Trevor Owens further explores the relevance of data to humanists by identifiying the varying ways data might operate and discussing how it might be of value. Not only does Owens identify data itself as potentially being texts, artifacts, or information, but he also examines the ways in which the use of the data can create new cultural objects. The emphasis of the questions one is asking as being as important as the data itself helps carry on the theme established in the Flanders and Muñoz essay, and I’m hoping to explore the ways in which I can represent the data I use humanistically to capture these other elements alongside the data itself.

I’d encountered the Library of Congress’s Recommended Format Specifications before, but after considering in relation to the rest of this week’s readings I’m seeing it in a new light. I thought it was interesting comparing the specifications for physical versions of an artifact to a similar format but in a digital version–there seems to be more flexibility in preserving the digital form of a work, particularly with the inclusion of both a “preferred” format option and an “acceptable” format option. Currently, I’m working on a digital archiving project with SIUE’s Lovejoy Library, and while we’ve been creating scans of archival materials to these standards it has been challenging due to the fact that they don’t physically exist in the preferred format. I’m interested in how that might be reflected in our data for this project. I wish I had known about Tropy earlier, as I’m processing large numbers of archival scans and trying to stick to a particular file naming and metadata scheme.

Overall, I really appreciated this week’s cursory look at data management, and I’m looking forward to exploring it further in Scout Calvert’s workshop during class and through next week’s reading assignments.

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