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.


Reflections on Digital Humanities Congress, 8th September 2012

Entrance to ‘The Edge’,
University of Sheffield. Photo: MTG

KAPTUR presented findings of the project to-date at the Digital Humanities Congress 2012 hosted by the University of Sheffield.

Links and reflections on other presentations from 8th September:

Session 16: Working with Image Collections

  • Using cultural and visual analytics for VEJA magazine, Brazil’s most important weekly magazine. Images and more information about the analysis of magazine covers from 1968-2012 is available via this blog post: http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2012/06/vejavis-project-digital-humanities-2012.html
  • In response to the KAPTUR presentation a question was raised about the role of judgement with regard to the curation of visual arts research data – comparing a colour analysis exercise by a student with a sketch by Rembrandt – ‘is it art?’. Although I made it clear that KAPTUR was not trying to judge ‘what is art?’ it was interesting to think about the role of the data curator of visual arts data in those terms and the potential impact of decisions made now for the future of Art History. In terms of the relationship between practice and research, this is also an interesting debate – for example, ‘good’ research may not result in ‘good’ art.
  • The final presentation in the session was from a Postgraduate researching Victorian Illustrations in the four major Shakespeare editions of 1840-1865. It was interesting to hear how the illustrations were described as ‘the primary source’ for his dissertation, and how he considered the database he was producing to be ‘a cultural artefact in its own right’. After the session Leigh and I had an opportunity to speak to a few PhD students about their ‘research data’.

Session 21: Research on the Go

  • In ‘Crowd-Sourcing our Cultural Heritage’ the project team described participants in a research project who used a mobile diary application to record phenomenological, and other, data as they re-traced an ancient route to a sanctuary site. Unfortunately, although there are lots of mobile diary apps out there, this one which looked very good is not publicly available yet. It enabled locative data to be collected (apart from at this archaeological site which was too isolated); participants could record a voice note, take an image or video, or write a text note. I wondered if it could be used by artist-researchers as a way to annotate intangible research data. More information about the mobile app is available here: Sun, X., Sharples, S. & Makri, S. (2011). “A user-centred mobile diary study approach to understanding serendipity in information research” Information Research16(3) paper 492. [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/16-3/paper492.html]
  • An architectural postgraduate from the University of Sheffield spoke about collaborative research with contemporary art and performance practitioners, and in particular a project called The Port of Sheffield. More information is available from the blog about the PhD: Context-aware: Articulating place through pervasive practices.
  • Textal is a mobile app for text analysis with the potential to open up digital humanities to a wider audience. This was a fascinating presentation about the process of developing a mobile phone application for iOS and included a statement from the project’s developer: ‘XML is dead’ (JSON has several advantages for mobile delivery over XML). See also @textal

Plenary Session 3

The conference’s closing keynote from Professor Ethington, University of Southern California, was titled ‘The Transcendence of Genre: Multimodal Publishing After Cervantes.’ I found this talk and the resulting discussion very thought-provoking and inspiring; a few key points and quotes from the Twittersphere:

  • Ethington placed Cervantes’ don Quijote (1605) at the middle of an hourglass effect between fiction and non-fiction writing. Don Quixote/don Quijote was out-of-the-ordinary on many levels, it had no single author, no privileged narrator and was fiction written about fiction; it was also subversive. Later in the presentation this was related to a second hourglass effect at which Ethington put the Web at the centre, with private/privileged forms of publication happening prior to the WWW, and now new forms of open and multimodal publication happening such as SCALAR and Hypercities.

Via @Ajprescott: “For @EthingtonPhil Scalar and Hypercities are part of the transformation of genre – comparable moment to Cervantes #dhcshef”

  • Ethington also spoke about the power of visual communication – it is much easier for humans to interpret an image than textual semantics. Referencing the morning’s speaker, Michael Goodman, Ethington commented how the introduction of illustrations and also the re-setting of the text around, inside,and juxtaposed with, the illustrations would have changed the Victorian’s experience and interpretation of their reading of Shakespeare.
  • What is an Ethingtograph? (link provides explanation and images)
  • Ethington cited “The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0” lead authors Jeffrey Schnapp and Todd Presner, with contributions by Peter Lunenfeld, Johanna Drucker, members of the UCLA Mellon Seminar on the Digital Humanities (“What Is(n’t) Digital Humanities?) and members of the DH community.

Via @keri_thomas: “Ethington believes #dh is a set of tools & practices, NOT a discipline. What is significant is the humanities, proposed by Dilthey. #dhcshef”

Via @Ajprescott: “Jerry McGann’s chapter in ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ v relevant to this discussion. Book available here: http://bit.ly/Ro2pSE

Via @keri_thomas Ethington’s seven challenges for the Digital Humanities (will update with the link to Ethington’s presentation or Keri Thomas’ blog post when available):

1. Transforming humanities in substance, not just form: new answers to old questions, new questions to old sources demonstrate difference that digital methods make.

2. Avoid confusing convergence of media with convergence of genres of knowledge: digital methods distinct from social science methods. As Dilthean Divide goes where will humanities stand? Are the digital humanities distinct from digital social science or digital natural science?

3. Modifying institutional practices to recognise trans-media, trans-genre scholarly production preserving and updating not rejecting core intellectual traditions like peer review assessing scholarly impact for career development.

4. Lower the technical barriers to participation while continuing to engineer new technological affordances.

5. Avoid dependence on for-profit enterprise as much as possible, while profiting methodologically from profit-driven innovations.

6. Develop recognisable formats for trans-media, trans-genre scholarly products. What is the online, interactive, multimedia, collaboratively produced equivalent of a “book” or an “article”? How to do this without forcing new media formats backwards into old one, without preventing the minting of new formats in addition?

7. Work with presses: university, trade, and open.

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/

KAPTUR Steering Group meeting, HEFCE, 18th July

View from HEFCE, 12th Floor,
Centre Point, London. Photo: MTG

Key points from the meeting:

  • It was noted that there was diversity among the four institutions in terms of drafting the RDM policies – we can still collaborate and learn from each other – but the approach is necessarily different at each institution.
  • University of the Arts London are really benefiting from their participation in the DCC University Engagement programme; the UAL Project Officer is working an extra day per week on this and as a result has been able to revisit and extend the KAPTUR Environmental Assessment through 20 x 5 minute telephone calls which will be followed up with 1 hour in-depth interviews with visual arts researchers.
  • There was discussion about a definition for visual arts research data and how this might be constraining, but was needed at the same time in order to be able to move forward with the RDM policies. A working definition was presented to the KAPTUR Steering Group 3 months ago in response to questions raised by the UAL working group: http://www.slideshare.net/kaptur_mrd/kaptur-news06
  • Feedback on training/support and the KAPTUR toolkits: recommendation to create KAPTUR videos about visual arts research data instead of hosting workshops at each institution (we already had plans to re-use content from the previous JISCMRD programme e.g. http://www.youtube.com/user/GUdatamanagement). I still think the face-to-face aspect of the workshops would be useful, but maybe there is a way to incorporate shorter sessions and use the videos as part of these? We will discuss at our next project team meeting in September.
  • The Steering Group liked the Figshare interface and thought it would be appealing to visual arts researchers as well as easy to use; there were lots of questions about both DataStage and Figshare.
  • Feedback on Sustainability: recommendation to get an idea of costs of the proposed technical infrastructure to include estimates of staff time required for ongoing support of the systems.

The presentations are available from SlideShare.

The Triumphal Quadriga or Horses of St Mark, facade of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

It was great to welcome Laura Molloy, Researcher at the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII), to the Steering Group meeting. After the meeting Leigh, Laura and I met to discuss the project from the perspective of her role as JISCMRD Evidence Gatherer. As well as discussing impact and gathering evidence about benefits, Laura also came up with the concept of the chariot (KAPTUR project) being pulled by four horses (our four institutions). I really liked this idea of the race and also the need for collaboration to be well-matched in order to make the project successful.

Encountering visual arts research data at EVA 2012

The KAPTUR project was represented at the EVA (Electronic Visualisation and the Arts) 2012 conference on Tuesday 10th July; Leigh Garrett, Director of VADS (and KAPTUR project Director) gave two presentations and a demo on the same day covering both the KAPTUR project and another VADS project – Spot the Difference (on visual plagiarism).

Some links and tweets collected from the EVA conference are available on Storify: http://storify.com/MTG_work/links-and-notes-from-eva-2012-10th-july (N.B. the bias is towards the Tuesday 10th July and the content selection is also reliant upon what was tweeted using the conference hashtag).

The KAPTUR Prezi for EVA 2012 is available here:

Our peer-reviewed published paper is available here: KAPTUR: exploring the nature of visual arts research data and its effective management

Meeting at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, 2nd July

This, our 9th project team meeting, was a bit of an adventure from the start, as the building is so new its postcode has not been picked up by Google Maps yet! However the venue is easy to find with clear markings from King’s Cross to the King’s Boulevard. Once on the 5th floor, there were spectacular views both inside and outside of the building:

CSM Granary Building, London. Photo: MTG

Key points from the meeting:

  • The Technical Manager provided a demonstration of DataFlow’s DataStage, which has now been installed on a local machine for testing purposes. There was also discussion about Figshare.
  • The UAL Project Officer spoke about DCC’s Institutional Engagement work with UAL.
  • Each Project Officer presented about two externally funded visual arts research projects (forthcoming blog post).
  • Everything appears to be on course for draft RDM policies to be approved at the Autumn Research Committee meetings; Project Officers will give short presentations about their RDM policy work at the Steering Group meeting on 18th July.
  • The Project Manager and Project Officers have collaborated on an A-Z of visual arts research data based on quotes from researchers in the KAPTUR Environmental Assessment report (forthcoming publicity and/or blog post).
  • The Project Manager is working with Angus Whyte from DCC to put together a programme for an event on ‘Selecting and Appraising Research Data’, to take place in September.
  • We discussed the timescales for producing the toolkits and institutional workshops; November was scheduled for the workshops. The Project Manager has been in conversation with Joy Davidson of DCC to find out more about the DCC training materials.

Kaptur – six months into the project (1/3)

One third of the way through the project, and this is our update for the end of the sixth month:

WP1: Project Management

WP3: Technical Infrastructure

  • The Technical Analysis report has been through several iterations; the user requirement component has been sent to the partner institutions for final feedback; once this is received the requirements testing will take place leading to the choice of technical system for the pilot.

WP4: Modelling

  • The Project Officers reported on the trends in funding at their institutions (blog post)
  • Three of the four Project Officers attended the JISCMRD two-day workshop on institutional RDM policies (12-13th March, Leeds); this was extremely beneficial for Kaptur for several reasons:
    1. using the Chatham House Rule the JISCMRD projects could talk openly and plainly about the reality of creating and seeking approval for institutional RDM policies
    2. we had an opportunity to really understand the processes and workflows from more experienced projects (i.e. those who had received funding in the previous JISCMRD round 2009-11 or who already had institutional RDM policies)
    3. it was very interesting to hear how other JISCMRD projects were making use of the CARDIO and DAF tools from the Digital Curation Centre – we will be discussing this at our next project team meeting in April
    4. there was also the opportunity to ask questions of select representatives of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) which was very illuminating, particularly in terms of the EPSRC Expectations
    5. as most of the project team were able to attend we could discuss and share our own views over the course of the two days and come to a consensus of opinion – i.e. that we were aiming for a high-level aspirational policy based on University of Edinburgh’s policy
  • An RDM Discussion paper was drafted and was an agenda item at the UCA Research and Enterprise Committee meeting on 30th March; this Committee also have the role to approve an institutional RDM policy.
  • Representatives from 2 of the partner institutions attended the JISCMRD Data Management Planning (DMP) end of project event (23rd March) – this was useful in terms of discussion throughout the day, lessons learned from other projects, and also take-home resources which we may be able to implement – as well as a sneak peek at the new and improved version of the DCC’s DMP Online tool due to launch soon.

WP7: Dissemination

  • As mentioned above, 3/4 institutions attended the JISCMRD policies workshop and 2/4 attended the DMP end of project workshop (both March 2012).
  • Promotion of the Environmental Assessment report (blog post)
  • Beginning of an idea for more creative publicity material for Kaptur, to be followed up at our next project team meeting
  • The Project Manager gave a presentation on Kaptur to British Library staff as part of their Digital Conversations event (blog post)
  • The Project Director and Project Manager co-authored a written paper on Kaptur for the EVA London 2012 conference

4. Issues/challenges

As we are now a third of the way through the project it is a good point for reflection on both the work already accomplished as well as the work still to be done. Our focus continues to be on producing a pilot model for the visual arts sector and drawing on the strength of the collaboration across four partner institutions. Added to this is a growing sense of community across the JISCMRD programme (2011-13) which has benefited the Kaptur project team.