Social-technological aspects of collaboratory projects in social and economic history

Summary

This project studies the practices, risks and opportunities of the implementation of collaboratories (virtual research environments) in the humanities. The case material for this research is formed by a number of collaboratories, mainly organized by the International Institute of Social History (Netherlands). These collaboratories are basically international teams collecting, standardizing and analyzing specific historical data, e.g. on labor relations in the past (See Global Hubs). Their research environments are websites, which are currently being (re)designed to optimize communication and workflows (See Hublab]. In the project, interviews will be held with the organizers and members of these teams. Also, their documentation, communication and internal work flows are studied. The central question is how the implementation of the collaboratory ‘model’ (including specific software) changes research practices and research questions in history. The results will be compared to findings on collaboratory practices in the (life) sciences. To what extent do the specific characteristics of the humanities obstruct of modify the implementation of collaborative (virtual) research practices?

Funding

Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and sciences

Researchers/institutions

Virtual Knowledge Studio: Stefan Dormans and Jan Kok

Timeframe

20 months. February 2008 until October 2009

Description

The project starts on February 1, 2008. Post doc researcher Stefan Dormans will set out by studying literature and examples of collaboratories in various disciplines (e.g. http://www.scienceofcollaboratories.org/). Next, he will do interviews with leaders and members of historical collaboratories to specify their expectations and/or hesitations. For each project, he will make an inventory of the organizational structure and workflows, and of agreements concerning datasharing and embargos on the material. He will study the incentives offered to potential new members (co-authorship, citing of datasets et cetera). He will observe websites and mailings lists to analyze the groups’ communication in terms of quantity, quality and critical moments in the life cycle of collaboratories. The selected teams differ strongly in terms of life cycle (some are well-established, others have just been created, still others are to be created shortly). Finally, he will study the decision-making and experiences with tools for online communication, data storage, data manipulation and data visualization. The project will result in several articles on the ‘collaboratory experience’ as well as in a report on best practices, aiming at the humanities.