I wrote this for the NEH/Polis Summer Institute on deep mapping back in June but I'm repurposing it as a quick PhD update as I review my call for interview participants. I'm in the middle of interviews at the moment (and if you're an academic historian working on British history 1600-1900 who might be willing to be interviewed I'd love to hear from you) and after that I'll no doubt be taking stock of the research landscape, the findings from my interviews and project analyses, and updating the shape of my project as we go into the new year. So it doesn't quite reflect where I'm at now, but at the very least it's an insight into the difficulties of research into digital history methodologies when everything is changing so quickly:
I was going to build a tool to support something like crowdsourced deep mapping
through a web application that would let people store and geolocate documents
and images they were digitising. The
questions that are particularly relevant for this workshop are: what happens
when crowdsourcing or citizen history meet deep mapping? Can a deep map created by multiple people for
their own research purposes support scholarly work? Can a synthetic, ad hoc collection of
information be used to support an argument or would it be just for the
discovery of spatio-temporarily relevant material? How would a spatial
narrative layer work?
planned to test this by mapping the lives and intellectual networks of early
scientific women. But after conducting a big review of related projects I
eventually realised that there's too much similar work going on in the field
and that inevitably something similar would have been created by someone with
more resources by the time I was writing up.
So I had to rethink my question and my methods.
now my PhD research seeks to answer 'how do academic and family/local
historians evaluate, use and contribute to crowdsourced resources, especially
geo-located historical materials?', with the goal of providing some insight
into the impact of digitality on research practices and scholarship in the
humanities. ... How do trained and self-taught
historians cope with changes in place names and boundaries over time, and the
many variations and similarities in place names. Does it matter if you've never been to the
place and don't know that it might be that messy and complex?
interested how living in a digital culture affects how researchers work. What
does it mean to generate as well as consume digital data in the course of
research? How does user-created content affect questions of authorship,
authority and trust for amateur historians and scholarly practice? What are the
characteristics of a well-designed digital resource, and how can resources and
tools for researchers be improved? It's a very Human-Computer Interaction/Infomatics view of the digital
humanities but it addresses the issues around discoverability and usability
that are so important for people building projects.
currently interviewing academic, family and local historians, focusing on those
working on research on people or places in early modern England - very loosely
defined, as I'll go 1600-1900. I'm
asking them about the tools do they currently use in their research; how they
assess new resources; if or when they might you use a resource created through
crowdsourcing or user contributions? (e.g. Wikipedia or ancestry.com); how do
you work out which online records to trust? How they use place names or
geographic locations in your research?
far I've mostly analysed the interviews for how people think about
crowdsourcing, I'll be focusing on the responses to place when I get back.
generally, I'm interested in the idea of 'chorography 2.0' - what would it look
like now? The abundance of information is as much of a problem as an
opportunity: how to manage that?"