A note from the authors:

We met in the Fall of 2015 at the Black Faculty Staff Winter Reception. We started talking about data. Both of us shared a common frustration of not seeing enough content that dealt with Black subjects. We agreed that in terms of digital spaces and the expanding realm of Digital Humanities, Black-focused DH projects are under-represented. We agreed to set up a series of meetings over the next two years to consider how we might develop our understanding of Digital Humanities and how we could contribute to it meaningfully. This book is the result of multiple collaborations from 2016 to 2020.

– Dr. Kenton Rambsy & Peace Ossom-Williamson

According to a 2016 Huffington Post article “Data Analytics and the Liberal Arts,” businesses are looking for undergraduates and graduate students with humanities degrees for careers in data analytics. The article explains that Humanities students are better equipped to know how to frame questions correctly, research interdisciplinary subjects effectively, analyze various sorts of information, and communicate results to decision-makers and the public.

The Data Notebook was created to resemble an “Introduction to Data” or “Data 101,” and it provides instruction for data analytics and data visualization approaches relevant to a wide range of disciplines. Concepts are discussed broadly in order to make connections between critical ideas, hands-on activities, readings, and relevant examples. The examples serve as well-placed supplements geared towards fostering the understanding of the concepts introduced in the lessons: seeing how ‘structured data’ works in digital environments; working with classification and descriptive standards; learning to “read” websites; thinking about the epistemological implications of data-driven analysis and spatio-temporal representations; and, most broadly, recognizing both the ‘hidden’ labor and the intellectual, subjective process of representing knowledge in digital forms.

This project builds upon areas of prior work, including projects completed from a 2016 iLASR Grant. Over the past five years, project co-investigators Kenton Rambsy and Peace Ossom-Williamson, collaborated to design courses that used culturally relevant topics to encourage undergraduate students to explore an unfamiliar research methodologies using familiar topics and cultural figures.  At the end of these courses, students were able to walk away with an understanding of how to use online archives and other sources to collect and organize data in a spreadsheet and transform that information into useful visualizations.

Consequently, this book privileges Black content. Black data is a central component of this project. Thus, readers will develop digital humanities methodologies by engaging with Black Studies. Our focus on building a resource is a way to harness knowledge by “drawing attention to the technology of recovery,” says Dr. Kim Gallon. Uncovering what is hidden from plain view involves rethinking the tools and their applications and who will use them.   

Readers will learn to embrace multiple research methodologies from the humanities and data sciences in order to gain a much-needed appreciation of contemporary technologies as well as social and ethical dilemmas that these tools bring in their wake. The influence of data driven research across traditional humanities disciplines has become ever more apparent. Having the ability to combine humanistic inquiry with skills in data analytics creates more career opportunities for learners.

Although the current cost of courses developed and taught by the co-investigators is $0 for students, both courses require text available through library subscriptions. Use of The Data Notebook will move away from depending on subscriptions, especially online textbooks that both have a repeated cost for the library whenever a certain number of “checkouts” occur and receive higher usage due to course reading assignments.

Overall, this book makes learning more accessible and affordable while being highly adaptable, affordable, and useful across disciplines.




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The Data Notebook by Peace Ossom-Williamson and Kenton Rambsy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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