Anthropology in the Digital Age


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Final project for a course titled "Digital Curation and Preservation". The final project required creating a data curation profile.

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  • Summary of collection:Dr. Clark--Six Years in the FieldEthnographic Research—participant observation type. Participant observation data is collected by writing down everything! The anthropologist finds useful tools such as audio recordings and video recordings. Many photos are taken to illustrate the never-ending notebooks of text.The ways in which people interact with one another are all part of culture…the ways people are related to one another, speak with, engage in business transitions with, and even the things they dream are all part of that thing we call culture. The ethnographer tries to capture as much as they can in their little notebooks.This collection isn’t just a collection of facts and numbers which need to keep provenience to have their meaning. Much of it is raw, qualitative data, and cannot be cataloged easily, and cannot therefore be dumped into an online database.
  • When I asked Dr. Clark, “Where is your data currently stored?”. She tilted her head slightly and replied, “Under that desk!”Her data is currently in several stages. She has data collected in notebooks, published in journals, images in the form of still photographs and slides, audio recordings and video recordings. Not all of her data has been digitized—she is still in the process of digitization.First stage: Analog DataSecond Stage: Digitized version of the Analog filesThird Stage: derivative files
  • The University of Michigan is hosting a website dedicated to African Studies. Dr. Clark’s collection of videos of historical narratives are now included in that collection.2. Dr. Clark has some data which have the same core content, though in different forms. She has audio recordings of oral histories. These are in the native languages. Each audio file has a pair of documents to accompany it: a transcription of the dialog, and an English translation of that dialog. She particularly hopes that linguists will make use of this data. “In ways she can’t even imagine”.3.Anonymity of informants: Vital to the experience of field research are the insights of the trusted informant. The ethnographer makes a special relationship with someone. The researcher promises to keep the informant’s personal information secret in exchange for local secrets. One example: from “African Women: a study of the Ibo of Nigeria”—a woman is wise to have lovers in distant villages. The lovers give her gifts (which she uses to care for her kids). If something happens to her husband, she still has someone to take care of her.
  • Since she plans to fold her collection into other collections, she needs storage of her digital files. She is already converting to standardized, archive quality digital objects. She is also working on metadata (MIX and MODS—Black and White photos, as well as using a cataloging tool for adding metadata to videos).Storage must be backed up, so she doesn’t have to worry about data loss. It should allow for expanding of the digital data collection, since it is not all ready for archiving yet. It should allow her to move things out to other collections as she gets them ready.MDSS = Massive Data Storage Service
  • Anthropology in the Digital Age

    1. 1. Curating Ethnographic Research Collections Presented by Nina Collins
    2. 2. Women in Ghana Dr. Gracia ClarkEthnographic ResearchData medium are varied Photo courtesy of ty/clark.html
    3. 3. Ethnographic Data  First Stage:  Still images, notebooks, writings, recordings, videos Second Stage:  Black and White Images; video files, audio files Third Stage:  Working version of the video files Photo courtesy of
    4. 4. Goals for the Collection  Fold it into other collections.  MATRIX/University of Michigan Make it available to other researchers. Maintain anonymity of informants.  Sensitive data cannot be made public (yet). Photo courtesy of
    5. 5. Curation  Secure Storage  Such as IU MDSS Allow expansion to include future digital objects. Data can be migrated to other sources as they are ready to be integrated into other collections.  Or as they are ready to be made public.
    6. 6. Acknowledgements   Dr. Clark  Stacy Kowalczyk  Online host sites that provided images included here