A Kalamazoo Panel on Medieval Data
The notion of “medieval data” elicits perceptions easily ranging from inappropriate to ironic to utopian depending on one’s disposition. But as new digital tools and methods have gradually opened up new approaches to historical and literary analyses—just as they have slowly infiltrated blogs, seminar rooms, and academic conferences—the idea that individual scholars can create a new kind of digital archive of the medieval period (both at its core and extending into neighboring geographies and chronologies) seems far less fantastical than it once did. Just as the novel perspective of satellite imagery has transformed the way we think about geographic data, a much more flexible and extensible digital archive—composed of fundamentally digital data rather than digital facsimiles—holds immense potential for unlocking novel and macroscopic perspectives on the richly interconnected medieval world.
Yet, even as we might see ourselves on the precipice of monumental change, there is nothing inevitable about such a transformation or creation of medieval data. What are the most pressing challenges? What must we prioritize? What are the most promising ways forward?
How might medievalists slightly shift their research practices so as to gradually and collectively assemble medieval data (university statutes, literary texts, library collections, parish records, probate accounts, etc) that are inherently visible, reusable, and connectable? How can efforts sustain themselves across such a vocationally, institutionally, and geographically diverse array of scholars?
Obviously these are broad questions, meant to expand rather than contract potential contributions. Related topics, such as the following, would fit perfectly well:
- Reports on research projects creating and curating medieval data
- Schemes for sharing granule-level work that tends to wither in localized Word or Excel files
- Critical comparison of text encoding vs text recoding
- Modernizing the shelfmark and (re)networking medieval texts
- New perspectives on critical editing and editions of manuscripts
- Potential shifts in practice for digitization and archival work
- Developing valuation and standards for data creation (i.e. making it count)
If you have hopes, criticism, concerns, questions, or techniques concerning these kinds of issues, consider voicing them in a sponsored panel (via the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of New Mexico) on “Medieval Data: Prospects and Practices” for Kalamazoo 2015.
To submit a proposal, ask questions, or get more information, email Fred Gibbs or tweet @fredgibbs.