OpenMethods Spotlights #2 : Interview with Luise Borek and Canan Hastik about TaDiRAH
OpenMethods Spotlights showcase people and epistemic reflections behind Digital Humanities tools and methods. You can find here brief interviews with the creator(s) of the blogs or tools that are highlighted on OpenMethods to humanize and contextualize them.
In the next episode, we are looking behind the scenes of TaDiRAH with Dr. Luise Borek and Dr. Canan Hastic who give us a rich introduction to the new version of it. We discuss communities around TaDiRAH, the evolution of DH, open data culture, linking with Wikidata…and many more!
|Dr. Luise Borek works at the Institut für Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft at Technische Universität Darmstadt where she gives classes in both German Studies and Digital Philology/Linguistic and Literary Computing. She had also been involved in several DARIAH-EU related research projects. Read more about her at: https://www.luiseborek.de/||Dr. Canan Hastik is responsible for Research Data and Education at the Leibniz Institute for Research and Innovation in Education. Digital Humanities and Semantic web technologies are in the focus of her research interests. She was involved in work packages in CLARIAH-DE and DARIAH-DE.Read more about her at: https://canan.hastik.de/|
Hi Luise and Canan, and thanks for joining us!
Although I don’t think that any of our readers would be completely unfamiliar with TaDiRAH, could you start off by telling us a bit about what motivated the creation of TaDiRAH and which communities have been involved in its creation?
Luise: At the time, there was a growing interest in describing and classifying DH methods. This was mainly promoted by the ESF project NeDiMAH – Network for Digital Methods in the Arts and Humanities, with which we worked closely with in the beginning, as well as with DARIAH-EU. Within DARIAH-DE and DiRT (Digital Research Tools, now TAPoR) we had an interest to develop something that would suit the needs from the particular projects. While in DARIAH-DE the Zotero bibliography “Doing Digital Humanities” had to be classified, in DiRT it was the listed tools that should be recorded accordingly. It quickly became clear that the next logical step would be to design this practice-oriented taxonomy together.
While TaDiRAH never had its own funding, it is a product that emerged from these project contexts. The name deliberately reflects this by depicting a kind of anagram of the original projects.
If I know it well, the first version of TaDiRAH was released in 2014 with the aim of creating/keeping an abstract and structured overview of the rich DH landscape. We see quite a significant uptake of the taxonomy since then: the taxonomy is now used across a wide range of communities and projects with different purposes (such as the Standardization Survival Kit, the DARIAH-DE bibliography, OpenMethods itself etc.) How can you keep track of these many applications and how they influence the evolution of TaDiRAH? Do you see any challenges here? (E.g. confusions or conflicts when different versions are at use at different places etc.)
Canan: It was indeed a challenge for us to gain an overview of the range of applications based on TaDiRAH. Especially since some ‘closed sources’ were known but not accessible or traceable. Of course, this contradicts the basic idea of open data, but unfortunately sometimes there is no other possibility.
Basically we are dependent on the community to keep us updated about projects, publications and applications. New topics and issues can be addressed directly via the Git repository.
With the new TaDiRAH version 2.0.0, we hope to not only achieve interoperability and harmonization for the existing applications, but to also improve the reuse.
Luise: In the beginning (the first version), we tried to keep track of where TaDiRAH was applied and started to maintain a list on Github. However, it quickly became outdated as there was no systematic way to collect this information. At best, the issues that were submitted via Github provided a bit of information on the contexts the taxonomy was used in. However, those issues were mainly about usability and clearly showed the need of a machine-readable version that would come with persistent identifiers. We are very glad that we have finally been able to comply.
As far as conflicts are concerned, there should hardly be any on the technical level as most people used TaDiRAH simply as keywording, presumably because the sparql endpoint did not provide satisfying URIs.
However, we included a relation in the new version that provides a mapping to the original TaDiRAH using the ‘skos:closeMatch’ relation to ensure interoperability.
Digital Humanities is an increasingly diverse and rapidly evolving field. What are major changes that you see to shape the field since 2014 and how are these reflected in the newer versions of TaDiRAH?
Luise: DH has certainly grown, both in numbers and in terms of acceptance and disciplinary stability. Consequently, they have indeed become even more diverse and visible. Within TaDiRAH, this can initially only be seen to a limited extent. But this is natural, because it proves that the top concepts, the research activities, actually retain their stability. On the lower levels, changes become more immediately visible. For example, in the area of content analysis, we have differentiated much farther and adapted the terminology to the practice of the community. Terms that are not yet firmly integrated into the taxonomy are nevertheless already included and linked to Wikidata, where the community is welcome to add appropriate scope notes.
Another aspect is the increasing internationalization, or international cooperation, which can be seen in the growing number of translations that the community has provided.
Canan: I think the aspects of findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability have driven and promoted DH significantly in recent years. It is nice to see that the community supports and promotes each other, builds networks, establishes partnerships, and increases opportunities for participation.
Just recently you released a new version of TaDiRAH that is now available at DARIAH’s Vocabs portal. What are the major changes of v2 and why these were important? How are the intellectual/conceptual and the technical/technological components of the work aligned?
Canan: One important point is that we initially did not include the objects in the new model. But we have worked out the conceptualization as well as the definition of TaDiRAH concepts with regard to the usefulness for the domain. We tried to sharpen the terms with respect to the concepts represented in order to develop consistent term definitions.
Our strategy included:
- formulating unambiguous descriptions that are neither too narrow nor too broad.
- the inclusion of non or explicit delimitation of content.
- the avoidance of contradictions and negative definitions, redundancy with other definitions and references as well as of multiple definitions within a scope note.
Luise: Well, I believe the major changes are that we now provide a machine-readable, SKOSified formalisation of the TaDIRAH model, including persistent identifiers, relations within the concept hierarchy, and mappings between several language versions.
Canan: And we now provide different levels of participation:
For example, the community is invited to further develop the model in terms of content and structure. By linking with Wikidata, we have designed a workflow in which missing definitions can be iteratively added, corrected and ideally converted into high-quality scope notes. Particularly aggregated concepts are linked to Wikidata elements, which partially still contain no or only rudimentary definitions. At this point, the model hopefully is to be further expanded with the help of the community.
How do you see the role of TaDiRAH in the successful implementation of FAIR principles in Arts and Humanities?
Canan: The new TaDiRAH is one possible way to further disseminate and promote principles in the spirit of open science and open data. It is important that a variety of different ways emerge to establish wide acceptance and promote dissemination. Grassroots initiatives such as TaDiRAH are necessary to turn FAIR principles into real and to ensure sustainable transition of knowledge distribution, dissemination and mediation. I think we can say that the whole TaDiRAH community contributes and is a good example of establishing an open research culture, technical ecosystem, and data science.
Luise: The availability and visibility of domain-specific vocabularies for the (digital) humanities is an important milestone. Especially as they are now beginning to grow well beyond the context of cultural institutions (GLAM).
However, the sustainability and fruitfulness of these initiatives is largely dependent on the community and funding opportunities. In fact, we believe that with TaDiRAH we have obviously been able to establish a generic and interdisciplinary meta-level that will allow especially smaller projects to join and gain more visibility.
In addition to the English version, TaDiRAH is now available in French, Spanish, German, Serbian. Why is multilingualism important to you?
Luise: Actually, we do not deserve much credit for this, as the translations were made in community efforts. By now, there are six translations, including Italian and Portuguese as well. I also see this as a sign of appreciation. At the same time, it reflects the internationality of the digital humanities and enables non-English research to gain more attention.
The SKOSified version finally includes several languages. However, as the scope notes of the version 1.0 translation do not match the SKOSified ones, the translations need to undergo the same revision. That is why, so far only the term level has been included – for the outstanding adjustments we rely upon help from the community.
Canan: At this point it must be said that with the new model the language versions are to be revised and adapted again. It would be nice if the community would feel addressed here again and could actively bring the language versions up to date.
TaDiRAH became a core instrument in the Digital Humanities landscape. What kind of credits/academic rewards you receive for this work? Speaking of the practical aspects of this, do you have a preferred citation format?
Luise: I am not sure I would consider it a core instrument but it has gained some attention.
It is not very common in digital humanities, but also beyond, for a project to last this long. The fact that TaDiRAH continues to be supported speaks for its usefulness, and we are naturally pleased about that.
To be honest, we haven’t invested too much in the last few years until we started the work on version 2.0.0. However, we have published occasionally on the taxonomy in order to keep it alive and make it known to the community. So in a way TaDiRAH has helped us grow our publication lists.
But of course, it remains a community effort, a work in progress that has to be adapted that has to be continuously adapted to serve the needs of the field.
Canan: The citation format is an exciting question. We would suggest:
Borek, L., Hastik, C., Khramova, V., Geiger, J. (Eds.), 2020, 28. September, TaDiRAH: Taxonomy of Digital Research Activities in the Humanities. Version 2.0.0, https://vocabs.dariah.eu/tadirah/ (CC 0).
How do you develop capacity for the curation and maintenance of TaDiRAH and what are your future plans?
Luise: Our goal is to continue the taxonomy as a collaborative project for as long as it proves to be useful to the community. We eventually formed a committee consisting of members of the original core team and developers of the new version.
But again, this is a volunteer effort aimed at supporting and organizing community efforts and helping to continue to improve the taxonomy are very important to us.
Canan: The impetus for the new development of the version 2.0.0 was given within CLARIAH-DE. We are very happy that this not only led to a great result, but also in the formation of a productive team that combines different competences by crossing disciplinary boundaries. It would be fantastic if not only the model but also the community and the circle of contributors continue to grow. Further development and maintenance are planned for the time being by own contribution and by community participation.
Thank you for your time, Luise and Canan! It has been great to learn from your insight and experience!