ABZU: guide to networked Open Access archaeological data

Suggested by academia.edu: ABZU, a guide to Ancient Near East studies materials, because of its Open Access collaborative nature. It is directed by the head librarian of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, a unit of New York University with interesting exhibits and docents at their museum in Manhattan. ABZU is a project of ETANA (Electronic Tools and Ancient Near East Archives), which supports archeological database development and geolocating archeological data. Thus it is related to other projects such as ArchAtlas and mapping activities in digital humanities in general.

Its collaborative nature was commented on in an interesting essay in Ariadne by ABZU’s creator (Charles Jones) about the impact of electronic communication on the nature of scholarly communication in archaelogy, which has been as slow, deliberative, and published-work based as the discipline itself–more akin to geology than biomedicine or high energy physics. This is another example of the changes as digital humanities develop.

Scientific data blog from Nature

Since April 2013, Nature has had a “monthly” (special topic periodical), Scientific data, billed as an announcement vehicle for scientific data sets; although it has articles of interest to the data community, including interviews with data publishers (even if many of them happen to work at Nature).  It has a blog, Scientific data updates :  a good RSS feed to keep up with data in general.  (It is on this blog’s blogroll.)

Research Data Alliance promoted by NSF

The U.S. National Science Foundation showed its support for research data per se in a press release about the Research Data Alliance (RDA).  The RDA is a new organization with an open structure–still not heavily populated yet–for researchers and data professionals to come together in comment boards and occasional face-to-face meetings. When it finally gets going it should be a nice complement to IASSIST.

Digital literary studies: text mining: does this make text data?

A new product, Tesserae (described in HASTAC), “aims to provide a flexible and robust web interface for exploring intertextual parallels.”  Texts (such as books or plays or poem cycles) become grist for analysis–the meanings and implications, not the character sequence or word count.

Its start is with classical authors (Plautus, Ovid, Catullus, Vergil, Horace), but it is expanding to English prose.

This is another good example of what digital humanities (DH) are, in that understanding texts for their language and thought expression (as opposed to phenomena described in words) is a core concern of humanistic scholarship.

What is noteworthy, especially from the point of view of finding crossover points or ways in which the humanities can open new windows of analysis of science, is the concern over copyright.  As soon as text becomes data, it brings along issues of copyright.  Of course experimental data can be copyrighted as well, but that is either liable to be waived, or the level of concern over originality and remuneration is likely to be lower than in artistic or literary communication.  As DH grows, scientists, clinicians, and social scientists can learn to address issues they consider “supporting” or outside their disciplines, and can award such problems the attention they deserve, since their colleagues in the humanities are supplying the expertise.

“Make data more human”

Jer Thorp, Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times, develops data visualizations answering humanistic questions (modeling sharing, questions during conversations, looking for narrative structures, laying out names in a 9/11 memorial according to relationships among the people).  By creating “human contexts” for primitive data points (latitude and longitude of landing in New York for the first time, where one met one’s girlfriend, etc.), he attempts to bring more participants into “dialogs” about the data points (or chains of events or consequences), which, by widening the scope of additional viewpoints, can enhance creativity or at least address needs or mitigate hazards (by giving data stories, or creating empathy).  In a TED Talk, he invokes the role of artists and poets to work at the convergence of science, art, and design, add meanings and promote a deeper relation between humans and data.  OpenPaths, a site for uploading and sharing (thus “owning”) one’s own location data, is an example.