Data wrangling at the 2016 Digital Humanities Australasia conference

28 Jun 2016

Pictured: Katie Hannan, a senior librarian (research infrastructure) from the Australian Catholic University asked Aidan Wilson if he could search for ASCII art using regular expressions.

By Ingrid Mason, Intersect Cultural & Communities eResearch Analyst

Digital Humanities Australasia is held biennially by the Australasian Association for the Digital Humanities.  The 2016 conference was hosted by the University of Tasmania in Hobart, convened by Professor Paul Turnbull and coordinated by the Association executive team.  The conference theme was “Working with Complexity” and the speakers in the programme richly delivered in their thinking and the discussion of their research.  Discussions on data and digital research methods featured heavily in the presentations.  The presentations ranged from the technical, such as the reuse or creation of ontologies and data models, to the philosophical, and concerns with semantics and big data.  Twitter ran hot with discussions on encoding practices, tools to use, and data access and quality concerns.   

Humanities and arts researchers and research support librarians keen to learn new text data processing skills put Intersect analyst Aidan Wilson’s data wrangling know-how to the test in a conference workshop based on Intersect's course on Regular Expressions.  Cleaning up textual data is a useful skill when digitised documents are a major research resource.  eResearch Analyst Aidan Wilson went in thinking that demonstrating processing different date formats in documents would be tricky enough… but in this workshop a new bar was set by Katie Hannan wanting to use regular expressions to search for ASCII art!  

All who attended the workshop left with a new skill to include in their data wrangling toolkit, and were highly complimentary on Intersect's training, with one calling the course "Very useful", adding that knowing regular expressions "has changed my searches forever!"

The concluding locknote presented by Professor Paul Arthur provided a longer view on the transition in scholarly research practices, uptake of computing, and production of scholarly knowledge.  He reflected on the value of networking and collaboration nationally with the Learned Academies, and regionally and internationally, through the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations as the research advances.  

Inset: Professor Paul Arthur, Western Sydney University, speaking on Digital Knowledge in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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