Digital Scholarship Incubator Reflections: Anna Assogba

This post is part of a series of reflections from 2017 Digital Scholarship Incubator participants.

Anna Assogba: As I started this reflection, I knew various types of digital scholarship methods that I wanted to apply to my project, and I knew the subject that I wanted to work with, but I didn’t really have an overall idea of what that combination would look like. As I continued reflecting, I realized that I think I want to create a digital anthology around land enclosure in England. To me, this type of project makes sense because I know I want to bring together a bunch of different literary texts (probably mostly poems/ballads) and historical primary documents (enclosure awards, Parliamentary acts or other governmental documents, broadsides, etc.) and find some way of relating them to each other. Creating a timeline of the documents and mapping the physical locations of their origins are two ways I can relate them to each other, and I think that having the timeline and map in digital form is beneficial because it allows for direct linkage between items. I am also interested in annotation possibilities for the texts themselves, calling out the references to land enclosure, and more possibilities for direct connections to other documents, than would be possible in print form. Another thing I would like to do is see what it is like to clean up OCR’d text, and I think that could come in handy possibly with historical documents that are not already available in digital form. The only skill that I have identified as wanting to learn but am not sure how to incorporate into the anthology is that of using OpenRefine to examine metadata for land enclosure-related items in library catalogs. I entered this project wanting to learn specific skills and tools which is why I identified OpenRefine specifically, but I think I also want to remain open to the possibility that other tools or methods may be more beneficial to my project and so consider alternatives to my current plan.

A great deal of the reason I am doing this project is to be able to have experience doing this type of work and to explore possibilities. For instance, I don’t necessarily know if the process of mapping will be helpful at all, so I’m kind of proposing it as an experimental thing, to explore whether it helps me discover new patterns/connections, etc. I am not sure how effective the mapping will be because I doubt that I’m going to be able to be comprehensive about the data. I think patterns are probably most likely and most useful with large datasets, and I just don’t know if I’ll get enough data points to be able to make any useful connections. But I’m interested to see, and I feel as though it’s not the kind of thing I can’t really know unless I just try it.

If I were not doing this topic, I think I would be interested in doing some kind of library-related project, such as exploring aspects of a library collection, but that’s only because I want to relate it more to my job, not because I necessarily find that more interesting than land enclosure. I would like to try to incorporate some aspect of library collections by maybe exploring how items related to land enclosure are described (in library catalog records), or seeing how different library collections compare? This idea is very vague, though, so I kind of feel like I need some advice on this. I’m also maybe interested in exploring the vocabulary around enclosure and related concepts (industrial revolution, commons, open-field systems). I became interested in this while exploring LCSH for land enclosure (Inclosures — Great Britain).

I don’t anticipate encountering too many copyright issues because most/all of the documents I will be working with should be from the 1800s or older, and I anticipate some of them will be government documents, but this is an area I do need to investigate, as I’m working with creative literary pieces as well.

I think the subject of land enclosure goes well beyond England, but because I am most familiar with it in that geographic context and because I don’t want to give myself too large of a project to tackle, I don’t want to consider it beyond those bounds for the moment.