My name is Amalia and I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am looking forward to being a part of RRSI2014, and getting to know more about the exciting projects that participants work on.
My research focus is on the Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire, particularly during the 19th century. I use these communities as a starting point in order to examine how new methods and tools historians use in their research affect scholarship. Although my background is history, I am currently doing my Ph.D. in Information Studies, thus I am interested to see the role of archives, museums, and libraries in this evolving landscape.
A topic that I am particularly interested in is the concept of “big data” that has gained recently popularity in humanities research. Current literature on big data examines challenges and issues that arise in big data research through a scientific or social sciences lens. Such literature discusses challenges in regards to the 5 Vs of “big data”, while there are issues particular to humanities scholarship that need to be considered. Furthermore, studies do not examine how to synthesize analog or digitized cultural heritage material, born-digital and web resources.
Current efforts in humanities big data research focus mostly on large corpora of digitized archival holdings (for example, Old Bailey, 1918 Influenza), projects created with materials that have been digitized in ways that make them amenable to computational mining. Most are projects with collections that are brought together online, an effort that requires institutional involvement and commitment. Other projects are based on already born-digital material. Such materials though rarely coalesce with traditional archival material to form a coherent historical narrative. While it is relatively straightforward (or rather, doable) to apply distant reading to such material, it is not so when one has to start out with material that exists in an analog world, material that most times do not even get prioritized for digitization.
In my dissertation I would like to explore how we can start out from existing “small data” (i.e., holdings in cultural heritage institutions) and use emerging linking techniques in order to create “retrospective” big data, i.e., extract entities that inherently exist in cultural heritage collections. This raises the point of which the unit of analysis in humanities big data is: is it the record (e.g., the archival document or museum object) or is it the entity therein (the mention of a person, a place, an organization etc.). Extracting such entities from cultural heritage material requires novel approches. One point then that I would like to research in my dissertation is this process. And as I mentioned above, I would like to use the Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire as the case study.