Iterative Data Modelling

In the past years, we have given various nodegoat workshops to groups of scholars and students. Even though the entry level of the participants varied from workshop to workshop there were similar challenges that emerged every time. These challenges can be grouped into the following three questions:

  1. What is a relational database?
  2. My material is very vague/ambiguous/uncertain/contradictory/unique/special, how can I use this in a database?
  3. How do I use the nodegoat interface?

nodegoat Workshop at the University of Luxembourg.

Since most of the workshops we give are nodegoat-specific, we aim to teach participants how to do data modelling from within the nodegoat interface. Because of this, and as a result of the usual time constraints (often half a day), we have to leave the first two fundamental questions largely untouched. To remedy this, we have written two blog posts in which we aim to cover the first two questions. The third question is being addressed in the nodegoat video tutorials, the FAQ & forum, and in the near future the documentation.[....]

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Formulating Ambiguity in a Database

Photograph of the staff of the International Institute of Bibliography, writing and classifying records

One of the most obvious questions to start with when working with structured data in the humanities is: what is data? Miriam Posner has captured this challenge in the title of her talk on this topic: 'Humanities Data: A Necessary Contradiction'. Oftentimes, scholars think about their research material in terms of nuances, vagueness, uniqueness, whereas data is perceived as binary, strict and repetitive. The realisation that nuances, vagueness, and uniqueness can also be captured by data in a database is something that has to grow over time.

As soon as we start talk about 'data' it is important to keep two things in mind. First, we should be ready to reflect on the fact that data oriented processes can dehumanise data. This process has been described by Scott Weingart in his essay on digitising and storing holocaust survivor stories. Even though we can efficiently organise large collections of data, the implications of this process have to be taken into account.[....]

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What is a Relational Database?

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. Room 100, including card catalogs

At a certain moment in your research process, you might decide that you need to order your material in a structured format. A reason could be that there are too many different people in your body of research and it's becoming hard to keep track of them, let alone their different attributes. Another reason could be that you have repetitive sources, like letters or books, that you want to store and include in your analysis.

In the old days, you would get yourself a card catalogue and start reworking your notes onto these little handy cards.[....]

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Network Visualisations of 38.000 Letters of 19th Century Intellectuals

Every bit of information that is entered into nodegoat can immediately be published through a public user interface. This allows the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe to instantly publish articles and a wide range of research data. This data also includes a set of over 38.000 letters that can be queried through the public user interface. In this blogpost we discuss the steps we took to allow visitors to dynamically explore this dataset.

The Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms (SPIN) at the University of Amsterdam has created a dataset of metadata of over 38.000 letters of nineteenth century intellectuals. This data has been manually entered and imported semi-automatically (geo-referencing and disambiguating people was largely done by hand). Sources include a range of publications of letters, like Breve fra og til Carl Christian Rafn, med en biographi, plus two existing datasets: (1) the metadata of over 18.000 letters of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were provided by the Arbeitsstelle Grimm-Briefwechsel Berlin, and (2) the metadata of over 14.000 letters of Sir Walter Scott were provided by the Millgate Union Catalogue of W. Scott Correspondence; courtesy prof. Millgate & National Library of Scotland. The remaining 6.000 letters were entered by hand by SPIN, based on publications of letters of various other intellectuals throughout Europe. This means that the dataset is a combination of a number of personal networks and that we have an overrepresentation of letters sent by the people at the center of these personal networks.

This dataset is part of the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe (ERNiE). ERNiE will include over 1.500 articles on topics and people associated with the era of romantic nationalism (e.g. Dress, design : Romanian, Karadžić, Vuk Stefanović, Felicia Hemans). ERNiE also includes other materials like monuments, architecture, art, and currency. ERNiE is coordinated by SPIN. The editor of ERNiE is Joep Leerssen.[....]

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