Beyond data: making sense of data in the arts and humanities

I wrote this proposal some time ago and am now in the Gold Coast at eResearch Australasia in which the BOF is a component.

Birds of Feather,  Proposal Beyond data: making sense of data in the arts and humanities

BOF, eResearch Australasia, VeRSI, Intersect, Academy of the Humanities, 8-12 November, 2010

Dr Craig Bellamy (eResearch Analyst; VeRSI), Dr Markus Buchhorn, (Director of Services, Intersect), Ms Leonie Hellmers (Communications Manager, Intersect), Dr Christina Parolin (Executive Director, Australian Academy of the Humanities)


This BOF discussion is planned to accompany the humanities stream of papers and presentations at eResearch Australiasia. The BOF session will be in the form of a panel to guide discussion on  various questions such as:

  • What is the nature of ‘data’ within the arts and humanities? What are the challenges of re-using data within the arts and humanities?
  • What do we know of eResearch practices and requirements in humanities, arts and social sciences?
  • What sort of infrastructures and services could best facilitate the use of data within the arts and humanities; especially so it can be built upon to facilitate new knowledge?
  • How do we encourage the uptake of newer technologies within the arts and humanities?

The BOF session aims to build upon and extend ideas presented in the preceeding papers through faciliated audience discussion. The panel will be drawn from those active in the digital humanities at the conference.  The session will be of interest to researchers, tool developers, eResearch service providers and support staff within the arts and humanities and those interested in arts and humanities approaches to data within eResearch.

BOF contention

For the humanities and the arts, the discovery of institutional eResearch largely came via the World Wide Web, its tools adopted to these domains through search-engines, structured text analyses, database construction, large-scale digitisation projects, audio/video streaming, and digital libraries. The first generation digital humanities projects were primarily about creating data; into the 1990s and beyond, the impetus was that large corpuses could be digitised, searched, and combined with other databases yielding complex results in a short amont of time.

However, the next generation of projects will need to build upon this ever burgeoning quantity of digital information available and adopt new methods that allow this information to be conceptualised, visualised, analysed, and collaboratively worked upon in new ways in order to address research questions never thought possible in the past. There is a pressing need to make sense of the heterogeneous and expanding digital record of humanistic knowledge if many of the broader strategic goals of the eResearch agenda are to be met; to assemble and reconceptualise disparate data sets for new research and/or new research questions.

This BOF will promote the discussion and develop new ideas on the meaningful use of data in arts and humanities research. Through a series of introductory remarks, facilitated audience interactions, and a closing round-up, the BOF will discuss how humanites and arts researchers are making sense of data within their domain, where they face difficulties and suggest future strategies for engaging and encouraging the participation of a broader section of the humanities and arts research community in e-research.

BOF Organisers/Facilitators

Dr Craig Bellamy (eResearch Analyst; VeRSI)

Craig Bellamy has a research background in social history and has worked work at the intersection between computing technology and the humanities for a number of years. He has a MA in history (history and hypertext) and a PhD in history and new media (interactive hypertextual video) and has worked in digital humanities centres in the US and the UK (including King’s College; London, and the University of Virginia). At VeRSI, he promotes the use of computing within the arts and humanities and assists in the development of a number of humanities computing projects.

Dr Markus Buchhorn, (Director of Services, Intersect)

Markus Buchhorn has been a leader in the emerging field of eResearch for over 15 years. Markus was previously Director of ICT Environments at the Australian National University, and is an advisor on NCRIS Platforms for Collaboration program, the Australian National Data Service, and a member of the National e-Research Architecture Taskforce (NeAT). He has been involved in national infrastructure programs such as APAC, (Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing), and GrangeNet for high performance network services, and continues to be actively engaged in a wide range of international eResearch initiatives. Markus manages the Services division at Intersect.

Ms Leonie Hellmers (Communications Manager, Intersect)

Leonie worked in the digital humanities as a project lead, manager and advocate for 15 years, variously for the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, Fairfax, Brainwa@ve and for a consortium led by the University of NSW as founding Project Director of the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online. Previously she delivered communication solutions for the Australia Council, Australian Heritage Commission and the private sector, and worked extensively as a journalist and broadcaster. Leonie provides communication, liaison and HASS support to Intersect.

Dr Christina Parolin (Executive Director, Australian Academy of the Humanities

Christina Parolin was recently appointed Executive Director of the Academy of the Humanities, and before that held the position of Deputy Director. She has been closely involved in the Academy’s strong advocacy work in the e-Humanities domain. She gained her PhD in History from the Australian National University, and before undertaking her doctorate, was employed across various administrative and policy roles in the higher education sector including positions at the ANU, IDP Education Australia and as National Manager Education at the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA).



4 responses to “Beyond data: making sense of data in the arts and humanities”

  1. Adam Kriesberg Avatar
    Adam Kriesberg

    Hi Craig, Great post and proposal. With all the research being done on digital data creation and reuse in the sciences, I sense a gap when it comes to the arts and humanities, and hope these fields will garner increased study in the coming years. Here at the University of Michigan, some of us are grappling with these same questions…its good too see kindred spirits in Australia!

  2. Craig Avatar

    Thanks Adam. I have seen some good work comes out of Uni Michigan.

  3. Niels-Oliver Walkows Avatar
    Niels-Oliver Walkows

    Hi Craig
    Always good to see that someone raises the same questions one is up to. I think it’s really important to reformulate this problem in the context of digital humanities. Especially because the main discurs in this context is lead by the library sciences with its data/information(knowledge/wisdon hirarchy which has its limitations. I prefer an approach which doesn’t speak of a “nature” of data but of special practices which treat meaning as data, but anyway. I would be interested if the proposal lead to something, kind of research, project, network. I would love to share my thoughts.

    greetings from the Academy in Berlin…

  4. Craig Avatar

    Hi Niels, hope you are OK. And yes, there is a problem that humanistic values and ideas aren’t always leading what should be our own digital research agenda. Being led by Scientific methods and values doesn’t always create the best projects.

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