By: Hayley Brazier and Heidi Kaufman
Today on the DH@UO blog we’re returning with our Librarian Spotlight series. We’d like to introduce Dr. Gabriele Hayden who recently joined the UO Libraries as Librarian for Research Data Management and Reproducibility, a position based in the Data Services department of the library. Hayden’s background as both a humanities scholar and a data specialist will be of interest to many of our readers.
As a self-described “literary data nerd,” Hayden has developed a career that marries the humanities with data studies. Before coming to UO, Hayden worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Reed College. From there she worked with the civic data nonprofit Hack Oregon before moving on to Jet Global Data Technologies where she “taught business users to build—and built for them—financial reports and data visualizations from large Microsoft databases (the equivalent of Banner at UO).”
Data Services is a department within UO Libraries that “assists University of Oregon researchers with the organization, management, and curation of data.” In other words, if you want to work with data and you need help finding the correct software, locating or archiving data, or developing a management plan, Hayden and her colleagues on the Data Services team can help you.
The term “data” is less often associated with the work of humanists, but that’s quickly changing. As Hayden explains, “Don’t let that word ‘data’ scare you away as a humanist. . . From the perspective of the Data Services department, data is any information that we can manage, organize, or engage with by using the power of computation in some way.”
Hayden works with all UO researchers from undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, to professors. And if you are still skeptical if your research materials could be considered “data,” Hayden would encourage you to expand your definition. “Data can be the citations in your citation manager (Zotero, Mendelay, EndNote), which behind the scenes are managed in databases,” she says. “Data can be big (a large text corpus) or small (the files for your dissertation or book project). And data can be quantitative (the number of times a word appears in a text; a geolocation where a letter was written) or qualitative (images or narrative).”
As Hayden points out, data and and the field of literary studies, for example, are not at odds. Instead, these two disciplines can benefit from one another. For example, “powerful new modes of computing allow us to engage with the typical objects of literary study as data—novels as text corpus, archives as databases—and gain new insights from them,” Hayden says.
We see evidence of this work in many of the leading digital humanities projects. Mapping the Republic of Letters, for example, uses data to trace and visualize early modern scholarly networks. Legacies of British Slave-ownership uses data about slavery to trace the lives of the enslaved. Data has become a revolutionary way for humanists to think about large cultural activities as well as smaller-scale events. In some cases “big” data is necessary to study these cultural phenomena, but in other cases, a small data sample can be just as revealing. If you’re interested in learning more we recommend a visit to The Journal of Open Humanities Data.
Thank you to Dr. Hayden for contributing to this blog post. You can reach out to her for a data consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter at @gabrielehayden.