[open-humanities] Panton Fellow Introduction

James Harriman-Smith open-shakespeare at okfn.org
Fri Nov 22 21:02:42 UTC 2013

Hi Sam,

Welcome to Open Humanities. I thought I'd take up your challenge and give a
quick response to your question:

> *What does open humanities research data mean to you and your work? *

I like your idea that the emphasis has to be on collaboration, and I can't
see any argument against that off the top of my head. I suppose. for me, I
would say that open humanities research data is most clearly something that
needs to be defined very largely indeed, and that this might be in tension
with some aspects of our work.

Here's an example of how large things could get when we think about what
the data is in the humanities that could be made open. If I think of 'data'
as what goes into my research output, then that 'data' includes the obvious
stuff -  journal articles, primary texts (both modern editions, early
editions, and digital versions of both kinds), legal and historical
databases - but also much else that is more personal like the advice of
friends, my early drafts or my own gut feelings. All of this is, in the
largest possible definition, humanities data.

Now, I think there's a line to be drawn here inside this large definition,
not least because the idea of open data as gut feeling makes for an
unfortunate yoking of adjectives and nouns. I guess what I'm getting at is
that the humanities can only be opened so far, and that we shouldn't let
the potentially limitless field of what goes into (or comes out of) our
work be always presumed open. When I publish an article, I'd be dleighted
for it to be open access, but fearful of all my first drafts being so too,
even if such first drafts might have potentially useful suggestions for
future researchers in the humanities.

Open humanities data is, then, for me, something that has to be negotiated:
for some types of information (primary sources from the distant past, for
example; or state-funded research publications), an argument for their
openness is easy to make. For others, it is less so, yet that very
difficulty is a valuable invitation to collaboration that a requirement to
openness makes possible.

What do people make of this?



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James Harriman-Smith
Open Literature Working Group Coordinator
Open Knowledge Foundation
Skype: james.harriman.smith
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