LINCS will enable a ground-breaking, multi-disciplinary research program organized across three themes — Making Connections, Navigating Scale, and Building Knowledge — alongside collaborations with researchers engaging with a variety of domains and areas of inquiry.
The large body of data that LINCS will mobilize for cultural research includes a spectrum from datasets to be fully converted and human validated, through datasets that will receive some validation, to datasets that will be algorithmically converted and poised for further validation and enhancement by interested researchers and citizen scholars.
The LINCS Research Board is chaired by Kim Martin (University of Guelph), with leadership on the three themes from Janelle Jenstad (University of Victoria), Stacy Allison-Cassin (University of Toronto), and Jon Bath (University of Saskatchewan).
Led by Janelle Jenstad, University of Victoria
LINCS will shine light on the dark matter of history: the hidden and unexpected connections between people, places, events, and cultural works across time, space, and media.
Currently, the ability to ask large questions of digitized cultural datasets is hampered... by the lack of good metadata that connects primary sources to contexts: when they were written, by whom, where, how, and why. LINCS will allow researchers to engage with digital archives’ content and context simultaneously. A deeply contextualized understanding is fundamental to answering big questions like how social discrimination persists despite formal equality, or what policies and practices fuel the creative economy.
A major aim of LINCS is to bring together overlapping datasets across multiple academic and linguistic fields. LINCS will bridge the two solitudes of linguistically divided cultural datasets as never before, partnering with the scholarly platform Érudit on French Canadian ontology development and on mobilizing Linked Open Data for scholarly ends.
Beyond academia, the interconnectivity LINCS creates will propel Canadian culture to greater prominence on the web, provide deep contextualization to search results, and give journalists, schoolchildren, and the public better access to quality knowledge sources.
Led by Stacy Allison-Cassin, York University
The ability to see patterns in large datasets and then zoom in to examine evidence is essential to humanities research, but it has been elusive in most contexts until now. LINCS will allow movement between granular data and distant views for those probing the complex interactions that contribute to cultural change.
We will mobilize a rich set of researchers’ musical data — entertainment records, early music scores, and ethnomusicological datasets covering Canadian Indigenous, East Indian, other folk music, and European traditions — to enable comparative investigation of influences, movements, and networks. Interlinking this data with that of our partners will enable an even broader analysis of the impacts of cultural policies and funding, such as the creation of the NPR in the US as compared to the CBC in Canada.
Such prosopographical datasets help trace how cultural identities circulate within avant-garde literary circles, or as applied to Indigenous and settler citizens in Canadian prison records. They offer glimpses of many who are otherwise lost to history, and have the potential to link to Canadians within inclusive projects such as the Digital Panopticon and other datasets of “ordinary” people.
The interplay of macro and micro is vitally important in work on material and textual culture. Editorial theorists and practitioners will use Linked Open Data to mobilize new kinds of editions and scholarly journal content. These probings of textual dynamics, using data that itself enacts networked textuality, will yield crucial insights in a world where textual conventions have been disrupted by digital tools. LINCS will therefore enable experiments in new forms of publication and application prototypes.
Led by Jon Bath, University of Saskatchewan
LINCS will change how researchers work on the web by combining the many advantages of highly structured data. For example, it will provide more explicit documentation of data organization than is available for most databases, with links back to sources in support of provenance, access, and analysis.
A major promise of Linked Open Data is that it can tell us what we don’t yet know through inferencing, the computational extrapolation of information not explicitly stated in, but emergent from, Linked Open Data. LINCS will transform knowledge discovery by extrapolating inferences from millions of data points. In this underdeveloped area of Semantic Web research, the interests of scientific team members inevitably overlap with some in the technical team.
Another promise is that new forms of serendipity will arise from the semantically meaningful data. Linking datasets provides exciting opportunities to locate sources in unexpected places, recreating the serendipitous discoveries that once awaited scholars in archives or libraries on a larger, more complex scale. Such advances will propel knowledge discovery rapidly and are relevant to the design of search engines like Google.
A real challenge of Linked Open Data for humanities research is incorporating nuance and epistemological differences, including the accommodation of boundary objects that have different meanings in different fields. LINCS will work to ensure that its ontologies can represent non-hegemonic epistemologies and push alternative knowledge representations into the Semantic Web. Linked data will also improve over time, increasingly capturing nuance and shedding more light on corners of darkness.
In its information architecture, LINCS will attend to difference and diversity, including the ways of knowing of marginalized groups. Above all, LINCS will provide a networked infrastructure of expertise and knowledge in linked data that will enable Canadian researchers to contribute to building a better information ecology. Canada has nothing approaching this kind of infrastructure for the study of human history and culture.
Featured Research Projects
Visualizing Feminist Networks: Representing Heresies in Linked Open Data
Visualizing Feminist Networks: Representing Heresies in Linked Open Data is building an innovative, open-access archive that describes feminist publishing networks in RDF (Resource Description Framework). Led by Michelle Meagher (University of Alberta) and Jana Smith Elford (Medicine Hat College) with vital research assistance from graduate student Joel Blechinger (Alberta), and supported by a Kule Institute CRAfT Digital Research Grant, the project is establishing digital humanities practices and methods that are informed by feminisms and ethics.
The Visualizing Feminist Networks researchers are currently working on a case study of Heresies, a feminist art magazine published in New York between 1977 and 1992. Using the advertisements that appeared at the back of Heresies, they are creating a collection of hand-written triples that describe the connections between Heresies and other contemporaneous English feminist journals. Advertisements reveal the ways that feminist publications functioned as “interconnected social movement technologies” (McKinney Feminist Theory 2015). Looking at the advertisements from Heresies in depth using Linked Open Data technology, Meagher and Smith Elford are able to trace the affiliations between journals and therefore describe, represent, and ultimately better understand early networked feminisms and feminist networks.
The dataset related to Heresies covers 27 issues of the magazine, which contain approximately 210 advertisements across them, resulting in 15,000 unique triples. These triples have been written with a goal of completism: they aim to describe everything the advertisements contain, but without providing any contextual information that is not present on the page.
Visualizing Feminist Networks uses the Heresies triples to reveal ways in which the magazine used its advertising space to confound mainstream capitalist models of competition — to advertise and promote other magazines, despite them being competitor publications. To date, research has revealed that Heresies upheld a feminist anti-economic model that refused to see other journals as competitors in a business model and instead saw other journals as a vital part of a network of feminist cultural production. It is this network of feminist cultural production and the interconnected social movements that Heresies both encouraged and enabled, and which Visualizing Feminist Networks seeks to represent.
In future, Meagher and Smith Elford hope to use linked open data to better understand how the goals and self-definitions of the periodicals — and the relationships between periodicals — shifted over time, and what these shifts reveal about feminism and feminist art from the late 1970s through to the early 1990s.