Archive/Data Visualisation — NYPL Archive

I know we’re only supposed to tackle one term a week, but the terms presented are interconnected with one another and I thought it more suitable to discuss them in tandem.

Digital humanities is making data into knowledge (x), removing the high academic barrier of entry, and allowing interested parties to interact and contribute to information that is freely available on the Internet.

It is the first part of the definition that I find interesting and would like to engage today — making data into knowledge.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has embarked on an ambitious project since 1999 to digitise all their resources to make it more accessible to the public. Digitisation not only makes it freely available, it also allows researchers to manipulate the data and categorise it according to its different characteristics. To put it loosely, it is how social media tagging system works, you can include multiple hashtags into one content for archiving/searching purpose.

DH considers content the data to be ordered, accessed, and analyzed by the system, striving to create the best containers to shape the content. Whereas the book had chapters, indices, tables, sections, etc., the digital medium is much more diverse in its capabilities for building knowledge. These digital objects are oriented toward action, where the paper paradigm made the content fit the container (the book), the digital make the best container for the content. (x)

This is best illustrated in archiving/data visualisation purpose, the data’s multiple facets means researchers can engage with them on multiple levels, tweaking and manipulating data to uncover insights. The example I would like to highlight today is one by NYPL, http://publicdomain.nypl.org/pd-visualization/.

NYPL has made its vast collection of artworks available online, and has provided an array of tools for users to interact with it. Users can choose to view them according to when they were created, genre, collection, or colour.

This flexible manipulation of data allows even the most layman to gain a broad understanding of art collection. Seeing the art collections organised by century brings out the artistic style unique of that century, one insight that would not have been that visible if one were to analyse artwork individually.

Archive contains a huge swath of valuable data, with new tools brought about by the advent of technology, researchers now have more materials to work on than before, and there is a need to have a better way of manipulating and organising data

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