The Longer Provisional Description of the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group

The Longer Provisional Description of the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group

Building on a discussions initiated at a recent workshop held at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and drawing upon the experiences of a number of projects and practitioners in the digital social sciences and digital humanities, we here propose a Research Data Alliance (RDA) Interest Group for Digital Practices in History and Ethnography. The concerns of history as a research domain and those of the ethnographic disciplines (including cultural anthropology, folklore studies, ethnomusicology, interpretive sociology, and science and technology studies) need not always coincide, and this interest group does not propose to operate only at the intersection of these fields. Instead, a medium sized tent (smaller than the whole of the digital humanities or of the social sciences, larger than a particular discipline) is being erected within which it is hoped that common interests and needs might be explored and addressed within the contexts of the RDA's broader mission to foster collaboration and develop strategies and frameworks for the collaborative care and use of research data of diverse types.

Specific topics that the proposed interest group will pursue include metadata standards for ethnographic and social/cultural historical "artifacts" (here referring to a large and heterogeneous mixture of research objects (both found and created by researchers) that serve as data for these fields. (This sense of "artifact" includes, of course, the kinds of material objects found in museums, but also extends to interview transcripts, digital art, musical recordings, lab data, white papers, computer code, data visualizations, newspaper clippings, maps, train tickets, etc.)

Related and crucial concerns include data sharing protocols, user agreements and other data-related intellectual property questions, citation practices and standards, digital platform questions, user interfaces, conceptions and uses of "big data" in the empirical humanities and interpretive social sciences, standards and protocols for digital exhibitions and their associated data and metadata, and sustainability and access issues for this research domain. These are broad concerns, but they harbor many crucial specificities that differentiate the needs of humanities and social science researchers from those of natural scientists.  The RDA interest group will discuss these concerns in relation to the Alliance's specific research data mandate, developing recommendations for data practices best suited to our research domains.

The initial discussion group plans to attract faculty and other practitioners from around the world. This is a group goal. The organizers are already in contact with many librarians, digital humanists, project leaders, and others whose interests are aligned with the group, and we anticipate their enrollment in the group's work. This effort will in turn bring a new and diversifying community to the larger RDA conversation, paving the way for this research group to interconnect with other RDA interest groups and working groups.

Consult the Provisional Short Description of the IG