Journal article Open Access
This paper is about data in the humanities. Most of my colleagues in literary and cultural studies would not necessarily speak of their objects of study as “data.” If you ask them what it is they are studying, they would rather speak of books, paintings and movies; of drama and crime fiction, of still lives and action painting; of German expressionist movies and romantic comedy. They would mention Denis Diderot or Toni Morrison, Chardin or Jackson Pollock, Fritz Lang or Diane Keaton. Maybe they would talk about what they are studying as texts, images, and sounds. But rarely would they consider their objects of study to be “data.” However, in the humanities just as in other areas of research, we are increasingly dealing with “data.” With digitization efforts in the private and public sectors going on around the world, more and more data relevant to our fields of study exists, and, if the data has been licensed appropriately, it is available for research. The digital humanities aim to raise to the challenge and realize the potential of this data for humanistic inquiry. As Christine Borgman has shown in her book on Scholarship in the Digital Age, this is as much a theoretical, methodological and social issue as it is a technical issue.
Indeed, the existence of all this data raises a host of questions, some of which I would like to address here. For example: