Connecting and Enabling the Humanities: e-Research in the Border Zone

Connecting and Enabling the Humanities: e-Research in the Border Zone

Paul Arthur (Australian National University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0125-3.ch005
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Abstract

E-Research is well-established in science and technology fields but is at an earlier stage of development in the humanities. Investments in technology infrastructure worldwide, however, are starting to pay dividends, and a cultural change is occurring, enabling closer collaborations between researchers in a sector that has traditionally emphasized individual research activities. This chapter discusses ways in which the humanities are utilizing digital methods, including: creating and enhancing online collections; building knowledge communities around projects, disciplines, and data; and communicating research results in widely accessible formats. E-Research has brought with it new attitudes, behaviors, and expectations. Topics include the growing opportunities for collaborative and cross-disciplinary approaches, building the information commons, and the need for long-term strategic investment in research infrastructure.
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Introduction

In today’s era of ubiquitous computing and global online connectivity, e-research is enriching research across a growing range of academic disciplines. Its reach is extending beyond the science and technology fields where it originated, and is now “penetrating the social sciences and humanities, [though] sometimes with differences in accent and label” (Jankowski, 2009). This chapter discusses some of the ways in which humanities researchers are embracing new digital resources, formats and modes of collaborating in ways that further the traditional goals of humanities research, “to better understand ourselves, our history, and our cultural heritage” (Cole, 2007).

Humanities researchers constitute a very large and diverse community whose intellectual contribution is vitally important to social, cultural, and economic wellbeing. Their research encompasses “the study of society, identity, economy, business, governance, history, culture and creativity,” a vast field that “links universities, government agencies, collecting institutions and creative industries with policy development and with communities” (Strategic Roadmap, 2011, p. 45). The field typically includes disciplines such as archaeology, arts, classical studies, cultural and communication studies, English, history, languages, linguistics, literature, philosophy and religion. The use of digital tools, services and methodologies is impacting on how records of human culture and history are created, stored, interpreted and accessed, and humanities research practices are changing, but it is a gradual process. E-Research in the humanities includes activities such as: creating and enhancing online collections; building knowledge communities around projects, disciplines and data; and communicating research results in widely accessible formats.

Topics covered in this chapter include the growing opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches, building the information commons for public benefit, and the growing need for strategic investment in research infrastructure to support the humanities. Humanities e-research initiatives in Australia are highlighted as a specific example that is aligned with and reinforces recent international policy directions.

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