Interdisciplinary Knowledge Work: Digital Textual Analysis Tools and Their Collaboration Affordances
COLLABORATIVE APPROACHES TO THE DIGITAL, L. McGrath, ed., Utah State University Press, 2011
30 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2012
Date Written: 2011
In his experimental seminar, “Literature: Cross-Disciplinary Models of Literary Interpretation,” Alan Liu asked students to form groups around topics of their choosing and perform analyses using digital tools on their materials. Our group represented four different disciplines and therefore formed around digital tools, rather than content. Each of us took a tool in which we were to become “expert,” and applied that tool to everyone's prepared data. We found that a research focus can form around a set of digital tools even if the objects are not uniform.
In this chapter, we discuss how we applied technology to our research goals and collaborative work. We address the main goals of our collaboration, as they emerged through our work together: to explore implications of using digital textual analysis methods on a variety of texts; to uncover possibilities in our datasets through experimentation with different tools; and to recognize the possibility for cross-disciplinary use of the methods we tested. We observed that the tools trend toward certain forms of interpretation and we examine how these trends affect the types of collaboration and analysis possible, but also how they can be re-purposed for alternative approaches. The most important lesson our collaborative experience taught us is that working together both pushed us and liberated us to experiment with our data and methods. In fact, much like our visualizations provide a big picture view of the texts we study, the multidisciplinary nature of our process forced us to step back and view our research at a macro-level. Although our collaboration began as a class project, playing together with technologies led each of us to new and significant understandings of our texts.
Keywords: digital humanities, educational technology, textual analysis
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