DPHE-IG Annual Report September 2014

ANNUAL REPORT, Research Data Alliance

Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group

Co-chairs: Jason Baird Jackson (Indiana University), Mike Fortun (RPI), Kim Fortun (RPI)  

September 15, 2014           


RDA’s Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group (DPHE-IG) was launched during summer 2013, following a late spring workshop that brought the three co-chairs together at RPI to assess progress on the Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography (PECE). In the year since, we have done the following:

1.  Participation in RDA Activities

September 2013: Kim Fortun attended RDA’s second plenary meeting in Washington, D.C. and hosted a break-out session to introduce the goals of the group, and a list of questions identified as important to address going forward.  Approximately twenty people attended the session, including digital humanities software engineer Bridget Almas, who has become a core member of DPHE-IG.  Bridget is also on the leadership team for RDA’s Provenance group, and on RDA’s Executive Council. 

April 2014: Mike Fortun attended RDA’s third plenary meeting in Dublin, and hosted a break-out session to present our activities and build European connections. Key connections were made with representatives of the Digital Repository of Ireland, and with Andy Maffei and Inna Kouper of RDA’s Engagement IG.  The latter resulted in plans to collaborate developing a ethnographic study of the data practices of different groups within the RDA.

March 2014: Mike Fortun participated in RDA-US’s Advisory Council Meeting, held at RPI.

May 2014: Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn was funded as a RDA intern in a program designed to “build a cohort of future data scientists/managers/evangelists.”  Costelloe-Kuehn attended a kick-off meeting at the University of Indiana where he met other RDA interns, then spent the summer learning about best digital practices in history and ethnography, particularly as relates to metadata for research-created primary data (the focus of our first Working Group initiative).

June 2014: Submitted proposals for two sessions at RDA’s fourth plenary, to be held in Amsterdam in September 2014:

Digital Practices in History and Ethnography: Updates and Working Group Initiatives This session will provide an overview of work over the last year by the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group, describing a series of project-shares that began fall 2013 (supplemented by interviews with project leads), a new series of "issues-shares" that have brought other interest groups into dialogue with this group, and progress thus far advancing RDA working groups.  One important working group initiative has focused on metadata standards for researcher-created primary data (recorded interviews, field notes, etc.). The session will include time for introductions, to discuss how the work of this group compares to other groups (such as the new interest group focused on development data), and the possible need for a new interest group with a broader focus on the digital humanities. 

Data Across Disciplines: A (Ethnographic) Project to Understand Diverse Data Cultures, Practices And Infrastructure Within the Research Data Alliance.  This session will provide an opportunity to discuss and advance plans for an ethnographic project to document and analyze diverse data cultures, practices and infrastructures represented in the Research Data Alliance.  The aim is to understand differences across disciplines to enable better collaboration between disciplines.  Using qualitative interviewing techniques developed in the anthropology of science, the proposed project will result in an archive of interviews with researchers and data technologists, analyzed to characterize key differences across fields, shared practices and infrastructure needs, and long range perspectives.  This session will be co-sponsored by the Engagement Interest Group, and the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group.  

August 2014: Brandon Costelloe Kuehn joins the first cohort of RDA-US Fellows, representing the DPHE-IG. 


2.     HG-IG Outreach. Most of our outreach this year has been through email announcement of DPHE-IG activities, particularly the “project shares” described below.  On November 7, 2014, the DPHE-IG will host a "meetup" at the American Folklore Society meetings in Santa Fe, New Mexico (November 5-8, 2014). Jason Jackson will introduce the RDA and the DPHE-IG to folklorists and other humanities/social science scholars and activists gathered at this major event. The meetup is on the official conference programs for an hour and 45 minutes, providing ample time for substantive discussions with digitally-savvy folklorists, anthropologists, librarians, and museum staff regarding how RDA and the DPHE-IG can synergize with their efforts.


3.     Interest Group Development. We have organized regular “digital project share” webinars as part of an on-going “environmental scan” of digital infrastructure projects in the humanities. In summer 2014, this scan was extended to include interviews with key players in digital humanities project development, conducted by RDA intern Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn.  We have begun to record these webinars and are working to archive them on the RDA website.  Recently, we held our first “issue share” to link with other RDA groups:

8/28/14 Patrick Schmitz on CollectionSpace, an open-source collections management application, built on the Nuxeo platform, designed for museums, historical societies and other collection-holding organizations. The project is led by the Museum of the Moving Image and the University of California, Berkeley, Information Services and Technology (IST), Research and Content Technologies Department. 

7/16/14 Quinn Dombrowski: Bamboo DiRT and DHCommons (recorded).  DHCommons is an online hub focused on matching digital humanities projects seeking assistance with scholars interested in project collaboration. Bamboo DiRT is a registry of digital research tools for scholarly use that makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.

7/7/14 Issue share with RDA’s Provenance Interest Group.

2/13/14 Jason Jackson & Garett Montanez: Open Folklore (recorded).  Open Folklore is a portal and project aimed at promoting and facilitating open access scholarly communication in folklore studies and neighboring ethnographic disciplines.

1/23/2014 Tom Elliott: Pleiades.  Pleiades is a historical Gazetteer and more. It gives scholars, students and enthusiasts worldwide the ability to use, create, share, and map historical geographic information about the ancient world. It associates names and locations in time and provides structured information about the quality and provenance of these entities, identifying places within the emerging web of ancient world linked data.

11/21/13 Julia Collins: Nunaliit Atlas Framework.  Nunaliit was designed to use a map interface as the context for displaying data objects and the relationships between them. Because it uses CouchDB (a noSQL database) as its storage mechanism, atlas creators have a great deal of flexibility in describing the data imported into the framework. Julia presented example use cases as well as technical information pertaining to the Nunaliit framework's inner workings and installation requirements, including the SIZONet interface developed for another set of ELOKA (Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic) stakeholders.

10/24/13 Project Review: Perseids.  A collaborative online environment being developed by the Perseus Digital Library to enable scholars and students to edit, translate, annotate and create digital publications of and about ancient texts.  Perseids is an integration and extension of open source tools, services and data models developed by a number of other projects, including Papyri.info's Son of SUDA Online (SoSOL) tool, the CITE architecture from the Homer Multitext Project, the Open Annotation Data Model, and annotation editors from the Alpheios Project.


4.     Project Development. A founding premise of the DPHE-IG was that digital infrastructure for the humanities will best develop through concrete scholarly practice and projects.  To follow through with this, the co-founders of the DPHE-IG have sustained (and intensified) their engagement with on-going digital projects, where ‘best practices” identified through RDA Working Group initiative will be implemented.  

Kim and Mike Fortun have continued work on The Asthma Files (TAF), a collaborative ethnographic project to understand how individuals and organizations are working to address the global air quality crisis and epidemic incidence of asthma.  The project was “born digital,” but has gone though many versions and growing pains.  Recently, largely as a result of discussion with the DPHE-IG, TAF moved from PLONE to a Drupal platform. TAF’s digital platform also became openly shareable on Github, as the Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography (PECE), an open source digital platform designed to support multi-sited, cross-scale historical and ethnographic research.  PECE will be shareable with other humanities research groups, who can further customize PECE for their particular needs. The Disaster STS Research Network runs on the PECE platform and is designed to support international collaboration between humanities researchers, and with other stakeholders involved in disaster response.  To understand the research practice this platform needs to support, Kim Fortun has attended a diverse set of meetings to observe and analyze existing data/digital practices, and/or to elicit feedback about potential digital practice.  We have also helped launch a new book series with University of Pennsylvania Press titled “Critical Studies in Risk and Disaster.  KFortun will co-edit the series with historian Scott Knowles (Drexel), working actively with the Press to develop synergies between traditional forms of publication (i.e. books) and new digital modes of scholarly communication (as represented by the digital platform for the Disaster STS Research Network).

Jason Jackson has continued to serve in a leadership role in Open Folklore (an open-access platform hosting folklore harvested from numerous global sources) and at Indiana University’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC).   Jackson has developed a binational museum partnership between China and the United States, which will rely heavily on new digital tools for artifact archiving and display. He is also central to the US NSF supported Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, which has just been funded for a third three year cycle, As part of the Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group, he is writing a position paper assessing the state of digital and data projects in museum ethnography. During fall 2014, Jackson will  hosting a series of presentations and consultations at the MMWC that aim to map the current status and future prospects of digital data projects in museums. This effort parallels a panel on digital museum practices he has organized for the 2014 American Folklore Society meetings. Through work with the American Folklore Society, IU Press, the IU Libraries, Cultural Anthropology, and Museum Anthropology Review, Jackson is active in open access publishing endeavors and advocacy