The responsibilities ofdata:Reconstructing lives from therecords of the White AustraliaPolicyTim SherrattFraming Lives: Th...
‘Because archives are themselves almostuniversally the products of specific institutions,our contact with them ensures that...
Invisible Australians: ‘The real face of WhiteAustralia’                               http://invisibleaustralians.org/   ...
http://invisibleaustralians.org/
http://discontents.com.au/shed/experiments/topic-modelling-in-the-archives
Identities
http://www.londonlives.org/http://www.foundersandsurvivors.org/
http://trove.nla.gov.au/people                                         http://viaf.org/                   http://www.world...
http://lod-lam.net/summit/http://www.canadiana.ca/en/pcdhn-lod
Networks
http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=18148
‘The most unhistorical thing we can do is toimagine that the past is us in funny clothes’.                                ...
https://republicofletters.stanford.edu/http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/xtf/search
‘If human beings matter, in their individual andcollective existence, not as data points in themanagement of statistical i...
Representations
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/true-crime-scene/they-dont-take-mugshots-like-this-anymore/story-                        ...
‘Nothing can be returned to the past. Not lifeto its dead. Not justice to its victimised. But wetake something from the pa...
National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
http://storify.com/wragge/the-people-inside
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/138111
tim@discontents.com.au@wraggehttp://discontents.com.auhttp://invisibleaustralians.org
The responsibilities of data: Reconstructing lives from the records of the White Australia Policy
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The responsibilities of data: Reconstructing lives from the records of the White Australia Policy

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Paper presented at Framing Lives: The 8th Biennial Conference of the International Auto/Biography Association
17–20 July 2012, Canberra

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  • Searching for "White Australia" in the NAA database won't help you find most of the material Kate and Sophie have been talking about today.\n\nObviously they have developed an intimate knowledge of the records.\n\nNeed to search for things like "immigration restriction", "certificate of exemption". Not used consistently.\n\nNot intending to criticise descriptive practices -- not value-neutral.\n\nStill seeing the remnants of the system that administered the WAP. \n
  • My question is how can we look through the system -- descriptive system, but also the administrative system that is documented to 'see' the people.\n
  • Perhaps like this - wall.\n
  • What the wall is:\n\n* Images extracted from CEDTs\n* Infinite scroll, 7000 images\n* Linked to docs and database\n* compelling, confronting, moving\n\nAn experiment -- part of Invisible Australians.\n
  • IA to bring records to the surface. Extract and share data about people.\n\nNo point complaining -- just do it.\n
  • New technologies to extract -- facial detection, topic modelling etc.\n\nNew technologies to display and analyse.\n\nFrom records to data -- what happens next?\n
  • Whole point of IA is not just to bring people to surface, but then to link together the various shards of identity.\n\nIn the archives: Multiple CEDTS, birth certificates, alien registration documents, applications for naturalisation.\n
  • Record linkage and crowdsourced connections -- eg London Lives, Founders and survivors.\n\nBeyond the archives: family histories, newspaper articles, cemetery records.\n\nBut we don't want to take on the the task of aggregating all this stuff. That would be ridiculous!\n\nSo how do we achieve this? By creating and sharing identifiers -- references that are unique for a specific individual.\n
  • A number of projects around to create and share identifiers:\n\n* People Australia\n* VIAF\n* WorldCat Identities\n* SNAC -> NAAC\n\nBut these are generally 'notable' people -- people we already know something about.\n\nThe world it seems is divided into two types of people:\n\n1. People whose details are published in dictionaries, encyclopedias and registries\n2. People who are stored in datasets\n\nTime to crack open the datasets, give everyone a public identifier so we can start making connections.\n
  • Linked Open Data gives us a framework -- don't need authorities to mint identifiers, you do it yourself, and create links as required.\n\nNice things about LOD identifiers.\n\n1. They go somewhere\n2. They don't go anywhere\n
  • Once we have our identifiers we can start to build networks...\n\n'Facebook of the dead' used in discussion after a talk I gave on IA. Has cropped up in regard to other biographical projects. Eg. SNAC. \n\nI really hate this. Really really.\n
  • \n
  • To imagine that the idea a 'a social network' is somehow self-explanatory, obvious, or ahistorical.\n\n
  • That's not to say that a lot of interesting historical work isn't been done with social network analysis.\n\n* Mapping the Republic of Letters\n* SNAC/NAAC \n\nBut these are particular kinds of networks, using particular algorithms to create particular visualisations.\n\nThere not some handy-dandy way of illustrating how all people in the past interacted with each other. Have to be used critically.\n\nWe also have to think about what the nodes in our network are, and what sorts of relationships they have.\n\nObviously, in Invisible Australians we'll be interested in trying to family relationships and follow them over time. But what Kate's work shows very clearly is that family relationships can't always be lumped into nice clear categories. Life is messy.\n\nOf course I just made it seem as if creating identifiers for people was the easiest thing in the world. But as we know, identity itself can be a pretty tricky business. We can't always be certain that a person referred to in one document is the same as a person in another document, even if their details so seem to match.\n\nAnd that's just the basic human stuff. What we're dealing with in respect of the WAP is not just a network of people, but a network of people who fell under the WAP, people who administered the WAP, government departments, recordkeeping systems, legislation, parliament, ships, shipowners, people who provided references or support. Then there's the broader cultural framework within which ideas of race are being defined and elaborated.\n\nThat's a pretty complex network of people, objects, ideas and technologies. But if we can start to map, even just bits of it, we can do more than see who influenced who, we can start to follow the flow of power and information that moved White Australia from a Policy to a system, and hopefully start to understand what it was like to live within such a system.\n\nBut it's all messy and slippery. So what do we do? Flatten out all the slipperiness to fit a particular tool or visualisation?\n
  • If our tools or models have difficulty with the complexity of human experience, then they're not good enough. And it's up to us as humanists to say why they're not good enough, to develop the models we think we need.\n\nThat means getting our hands dirty with schemas and vocabularies. It means unpacking algorithms and decoding visualisations. But I think we have a basic responsibility to treat people as people. With all their wonderful, glorious messiness.\n
  • We created the wall of faces without thinking too much about it. But there was at least one important design decisions.\n\nKeep the pictures different sizes -- some sense of individuality -- NOT MUGSHOTS\n
  • Police photos -- amazing photos, but context. Are they used so freely because they are criminals?\n\nThere may be some who think that the wall, or more generally the process of extracting the portraits is not so different. Aren't we taking away context?\n\nAll linked back to documents and NAA database -- something that is very important to us.\n\nBut there's also the question of what the original context of these documents was.\n\nIn the archival system they record the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act.\n\nBut how many other contexts can we imagine?\n\n* the journey\n* family implications\n* uncertainty / fear -- would they be allowed to return\n* indignation -- objecting to the process\n* physical sensations -- the thick sticky ink used to create the handprints -- how long did it take to wash off?\n* the physical pressure of the custom officer's hand pressing down to achieve a good print\n* on return -- being lined up with other non-white passengers to submit for inspection\n\nIt's possible that this document might be the only remaining fragment we have documenting this person's life. It's precious. It's not the 37 biography of Donald Bradman -- it's unique.\n\nWe have a responsibility to see it, not just as a record of a system, but as a fragment embedded within a range of rich and unknowable contexts.\n
  • We may not be able to tell the whole story, but we can represent documents and data in ways that indicate that such stories do exist. There are lives behind them. There are people inside.\n\nHow? \n\nI have no solution other than continued failure. There are no answers. All we can do is mount experiments and stage interventions.\n\nI was thinking about this as I was preparing this paper, and wondering again about the faces we had extracted. What about going the other way? Of using them within RecordSearch as a glimpse of the People Inside.\n\nAnd so I created a little experiment, an intervention...\n
  • Before...\n
  • After...\n
  • Before...\n
  • After...\n
  • The story..\n
  • Try the script...\n\nWhat does this do to database? Do you see it differently? I don't know. But I think these are the sorts of questions and experiments we need to pursue.\n
  • \n
  • The responsibilities of data: Reconstructing lives from the records of the White Australia Policy

    1. 1. The responsibilities ofdata:Reconstructing lives from therecords of the White AustraliaPolicyTim SherrattFraming Lives: The 8th Biennial Conference of the International Auto/Biography Association17–20 July 2012Australian National University, Canberra
    2. 2. ‘Because archives are themselves almostuniversally the products of specific institutions,our contact with them ensures that theinstitutional voice is heard in all its stentoriansplendour -- effectively drowning out thequieter tones uttered by the individual.’ Tim Hitchcock ‘Digital searching and the re-formulation of historical knowledge’, in The Virtual Representation of the Past, Ashgate, 2008, p. 83
    3. 3. Invisible Australians: ‘The real face of WhiteAustralia’ http://invisibleaustralians.org/ faces/
    4. 4. http://invisibleaustralians.org/
    5. 5. http://discontents.com.au/shed/experiments/topic-modelling-in-the-archives
    6. 6. Identities
    7. 7. http://www.londonlives.org/http://www.foundersandsurvivors.org/
    8. 8. http://trove.nla.gov.au/people http://viaf.org/ http://www.worldcat.org/identities/http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/NAAC_index.html
    9. 9. http://lod-lam.net/summit/http://www.canadiana.ca/en/pcdhn-lod
    10. 10. Networks
    11. 11. http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=18148
    12. 12. ‘The most unhistorical thing we can do is toimagine that the past is us in funny clothes’. Greg Dening Readings/Writings, Melbourne University Press, 1998, p. 209
    13. 13. https://republicofletters.stanford.edu/http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/xtf/search
    14. 14. ‘If human beings matter, in their individual andcollective existence, not as data points in themanagement of statistical information, but aspersons living actual lives, then finding ways torepresent them within the digital environmentis important.’ Johanna Drucker http://www.uminnpressblog.com/2012/05/representation-and-digital- environment.html
    15. 15. Representations
    16. 16. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/true-crime-scene/they-dont-take-mugshots-like-this-anymore/story- fnat7dag-1226277051009
    17. 17. ‘Nothing can be returned to the past. Not lifeto its dead. Not justice to its victimised. But wetake something from the past with ourhindsighted clarity. That which we take we canreturn. We disempower the people of the pastwhen we rob them of their present moments.We dehumanise them, make them our puppets.We owe them more, it seems to me...’ Greg Dening Performances, Melbourne University Press, 1996, p. 204
    18. 18. National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
    19. 19. National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
    20. 20. National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
    21. 21. National Archives of Australia:ST84/1
    22. 22. http://storify.com/wragge/the-people-inside
    23. 23. http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/138111
    24. 24. tim@discontents.com.au@wraggehttp://discontents.com.auhttp://invisibleaustralians.org

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