What is visual arts research data? (revisited)

This blog post charts the KAPTUR journey in the search for an answer to the question What is visual arts research data?

From the original JISC bid (July 2011):

Research data in the arts mirrors the complexity of the outputs, taking many forms including logbooks, journals, workbooks, sample libraries and sketchbooks.

Examples of visual arts research data on the KAPTUR website (October 2011): http://www.vads.ac.uk/kaptur/ The images include a fabric manipulation sample, different pages from sketchbooks, glaze sample pot, and a photographic contact sheet. These examples, as well as different examples, have been used throughout the project on posters and handouts.

The KAPTUR Environmental Assessment report (March 2012) (based upon a literature review, 24 interviews with visual arts researchers, and collaborative data analysis across four institutions) included the following statement in its concluding remarks:

There appears to be little consensus in the visual arts on what research data is and what it consists of. Variously described by the interviewees as tangible, intangible, digital, and physical; this confirms the view of the project team that visual arts research data is heterogeneous and infinite, complex and complicated.

This was followed up with a peer-reviewed journal article for the Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2012) conference and a definition of What is visual arts research data? referencing the University of Edinburgh (April 2012):

Research data can be described as data which arises out of, and evidences, research. This can be classified as observational e.g. sensor data; experimental; simulation; derived or compiled data e.g. databases, 3D models; or reference or canonical e.g. a collection of smaller datasets gathered together (University of Edinburgh 2011a). Examples of visual arts research data may include sketchbooks, log books, sets of images, video recordings, trials, prototypes, ceramic glaze recipes, found objects, and correspondence.

This was disseminated to the Steering Group, project team, and via SlideShare (April 2012)

A further attempt was made to define What is visual arts research data? at a peer-reviewed presentation made to the Digital Humanities Congress, University of Sheffield, 8th September.

Marieke Guy, through her work with the DCC and Institutional Engagement at University of the Arts London, gave a presentation on defining visual arts research data at the Managing the Material: Tackling Visual Arts as Research Data workshop, 14th September 2012. From debate with speakers and the audience at the workshop, Leigh Garrett wrote the following statement for discussion (September 2012):

Anything which is used or created to generate new knowledge and interpretations.  Anything maybe objective or subjective; physical or emotional; persistent or ephemeral; personal or public; explicit or tacit; and is consciously or unconsciously referenced by the researcher at some point during the course of their research.  Research data may or may not  led to a research output, which regardless of method of presentation, is a planned public statement of new knowledge or interpretation.

Leigh’s statement was on the KAPTUR poster for the JISCMRD programme meeting (October 2012), available via SlideShare:

At the January Steering Group meeting the question What is visual arts research data? was again debated, although there was only one small amendment suggested to Leigh’s statement.

Finally we seem to be closer to resolving this; discussion continued last week at the University for the Creative Arts RDM training workshop. The UCA Project Officer, Anne Spalding, designed an exercise which encouraged debate from staff from the Research Office, IT, and Library & Student Services departments around the question What is visual arts research data? This has resulted in an amended definition (January 2013) written by Leigh. Discussion and feedback are still welcome:

Evidence which is used or created to generate new knowledge and interpretations. ‘Evidence’ may be intersubjective or subjective; physical or emotional; persistent or ephemeral; personal or public; explicit or tacit; and is consciously or unconsciously referenced by the researcher at some point during the course of their research. As part of the research process, research data maybe collated in a structured way to create a dataset to substantiate a particular interpretation, analysis or argument. A dataset may or may not lead to a research output, which regardless of method of presentation, is a planned public statement of new knowledge or interpretation.


Towards an A-Z of Visual Arts Research Data

From an idea originating with Robin Burgess, Project Officer, The Glasgow School of Art, the project team has been considering an A-Z of visual arts research data as way to:

  • further promote the work of the KAPTUR Environmental Assessment report using the voice of the interviewees
  • inform research data managers, information managers, and librarians about visual arts research data
  • provide an informal tool to discuss visual arts research data – for example with further development maybe as part of one of the KAPTUR toolkits
  • possibly to lead into promotional and/or training materials for KAPTUR (we have discussed producing postcards using some of the letters)

At the project team meeting in July each of the Project Officers, and the Project Manager, presented their ideas for a section of the alphabet. These have now been worked up into a clickable Prezi. However please note that this is a work-in-progress and will be updated subject to project team discussion.

How to use this Prezi:

  • Please select the play arrow at the bottom, then hover over ‘More’ to select the ‘Fullscreen’ option.
  • Then select ‘Allow’ from the message header that appears.
  • Please begin by selecting ‘Back to the start’ from the right-click menu.
  • Then click once on a letter that you would like to view (each letter will be highlighted in pale blue as you hover).
  • To go back please select ‘Back to the start’ from the right-click menu.
  • Alternatively selecting the play arrow will move through the alphabet from A-Z (or from whichever letter you were last viewing).



The Prezi can also be accessed here: http://prezi.com/bna2aayvtski/kaptur-a-z/

Building a pilot demonstrator service for the visual arts

The following blog post is adapted from the Conclusion and Recommendations section of the Technical Analysis report (PDF):

The KAPTUR Technical Manager investigated 17 different types of software which were compared to the requirements of the four partner institutions (details and appendices in the report). The next stage of the research reduced the choice of software to five options: DataFlow, DSpace, EPrints, Fedora, Figshare. These were all found to be suitable for managing research data in the visual arts; through a further selection process EPrints, Figshare, and DataFlow were identified as the strongest contenders.

[…] it is recommended that two pilots occur side by side: an integration of EPrints with Figshare and a separate piece of work linking DataFlow’s DataStage with EPrints. By integrating EPrints with Figshare, the project can take advantage of a system which has been built with, and for, researchers to handle research data specifically, and has a user-friendly visual interface (which is constantly evolving and enhanced by Figshare directly). […]By integrating DataStage with EPrints the research data storage and software will be hosted within each institution, providing them with better control over the type of data that can be stored, published and managed. The integration will also enable content uploaded in DataStage to be securely backed up by the institution and accessible from anywhere in the world. A ‘Dropbox’-like tool is featured in the latest beta version, providing a user-friendly interface which will benefit visual arts researchers. EPrints will effectively provide the role of DataFlow’s DataBank.

On the nature of Visual Arts research data

“[…] fluid, ‘wet’ and folded, if not at times messy, fuzzy and tumultuous.”
(Gray and Delday 2010, cited in Mey 2010)

The final version of the Environmental Assessment report is now available online: http://www.research.ucreative.ac.uk/1054/

This report consists of the findings of interviews with visual arts researchers and a literature review based on the research question: What is the nature of visual arts research data?

Report findings were also presented at the Kaptur Steering Group meeting (February 2012) and the presentations of the team are available in SlideShare.

Mey, K., 2010. Creativity, Imagination, Values – why we need artistic research. In: Textures, the 6th European meeting of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, Riga, Latvia, 15-19 June 2010. (Unpublished)

Methodology for the Environmental Assessment – shared

As discussed during the JISCMRD Programme Launch in Nottingham, projects thought it would be good to share what each one is doing regarding the Data Asset Framework (DAF) and/or gathering user needs, in order to see if it can be used/re-used by the other projects. We have been describing Kaptur’s approach, and the rationale for this approach, in a series of blog posts. Previous blog posts on this topic are available by searching the tag ‘environmental assessment‘, the two most relevant of these are: ‘Methodology for the Environmental Assessment‘; and ‘Environmental Assessment interview questions‘. Feedback is welcomed.

Kaptur is not using DAF, although we have considered what can be learned from the DAF approach. DAF provides institutions with a means to:

“identify, locate, describe and assess how they are managing their research data assets”

DAF Screencast

A fully comprehensive website is available:http://www.data-audit.eu/. This includes the DAF Implementation Guide (PDF).

DAF recommend that you begin by deciding what you mean by ‘data assets’, for example they mention:

“numerical data, statistics, output from experimental equipment, survey results, interview transcripts, databases, images or audiovisual files, amongst other things”

DAF Implementation Guide (PDF) pp.7

Our initial probing interviews and research in the area of visual arts data tell us that we are not ready yet to pin this down to specific assets, although potentially all of the above could be included. One of the issues arising out of the probing interviews was the concept of what ‘research data’ was in the first place. We decided to undertake formal interviews to gather detailed qualitative information that could better inform Kaptur and help to build relationships with visual arts researchers at the four institutions. This approach, whilst not following DAF exactly, did also include questions that enabled information to be gathered about the types of data asset that researchers were producing and how they were being managed.

The scope of the Kaptur Environmental Assessment report has been defined in our methodology, which we make available for use and re-use:

Following the imminent publication of our report, the next stage is to establish working groups in each institution as a way to both continue the dialogue with the visual arts researchers and also to encompass a wider range of stakeholders. We have been looking at the CARDIO assessment tool, particularly as this is designed to “improve communication and understanding” between stakeholders. However this is normally used following a more formal data audit procedure, and therefore we may adapt the approach of CARDIO to suit our timescales and circumstances. For example there is a clear benefit to holding face-to-face meetings with all the stakeholders and this will take priority, however it may be that questions or elements of the CARDIO tool can be used to inform the agenda for these meetings. This is yet to be discussed, and will be raised at the Steering Group meeting on Monday as part of the Implementation Plan.

visual arts research data and ‘creation’

The first Kaptur Steering Group meeting will be held on Monday 6th February at University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. The Project Officers and Project Manager will present findings from the Environmental Assessment Report, which we will disseminate following feedback from the Group.

V & A Museum, London

Dale Chihuly's V&A Rotunda chandelier. Photo: MTG

The following quote is not in our report, but it does resonate with some of our own findings. It is taken originally from text on display in the Theatre and Performance Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. However credit is due to Katie of the JE SUIS UNE MONSTRE blog for making this available online:

“The process of creation differs from artist to artist but always springs from the premise that something must, could, or should be created.

Artists take inspiration from everywhere – literature, landscape, advertising, other works of art, political and historical events – so the process of creation and inspiration is cyclical.”

The blog also shows examples of visual arts research data as part of a ‘conversation with Amber Hards‘, a Knitwear Designer.

#jiscmrd Programme Launch – Tips from Brian Kelly

Links (via @briankelly)

Tips from Brian Kelly

  1. Instead of having a separate website and blog, integrate the web pages into the blog or vice versa.
  2. Think about what will happen to the blog if you leave or what happens after the end of the project.
  3. Use the ‘about’ page to really say how you are going to use the blog e.g. your blogging practices and approach and why – see Blog Policies.
  4. Write a ‘Communications Strategy’.
  5. Engage with high impact channels in the following ways: think of a human interest angle to your story; be proactive in seeking opportunities e.g. if there is a relevant news story that your project relates to in some way.
  6. Write a ‘Press Release from the Future’ as a way of setting where you want to be and then working out how you will achieve it.

How we are planning to use these for Kaptur

  1. Plan to integrate website/blog; our Technical Manager is back in mid-January so may ask him to set up a wordpress.org via our website instead of the current wordpress.com (will require re-directs obviously and not ideal so will think about it first).
  2. We are working towards a Data Management Plan for our project’s research data including the blog, a blog post about this will be forthcoming.
  3. We have now updated our About page to include a blog policy.
  4. Although the JISC Project Plan has various plans within the document such as a Dissemination Plan (ours is available here: Kaptur Project Plan (PDF)), Brian was talking specifically about how to target those channels that are high impact e.g. Times Higher Education, radio, and TV. See point 5 for tips.
  5. The visual arts researchers that we are engaging with at each of the institutions have the potential to address these points, subject to the research criteria we are applying of ‘informed consent’. We will look out for these opportunities.
  6. This is on my ‘to-do’ list e.g. ours may include ‘having an article in Times Higher’

On a side note, I chose to use SlideShare for Kaptur based on reading Brian Kelly’s blog post about SlideShare, which I then blogged about for a different project back in May: Identifying impact with SlideShare

I have also begun using Storify after Brian showed me how the Event Amplifier uses this. A Storify has been created for this week’s Kultivate event on Linked Data.