Monday, April 20, 2015

Week 12: Relational Databases (plus copyright)

Ansley T. Erickson, “Historical Research and the Problem ofCategories: Reflections on 10,000 Digital Note Cards,Writing History in the Digital Age
  • What is a relational database?
  • How do you keep track of all your notes for a project? How should you do this?
  • What was Erickson’s goal in using a relational database for her dissertation?
  • How much reading of and thinking about documents should you do in the archives? How much do you do later?
  • How did she take advantage of the possibilities of the database in her research and writing process?
  • When in the process should you start writing?
  • Do you actually organize your writing through categories, or through topics, or through narrative?

Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, “Africa and Africans in the African Diaspora: The Uses of Relational Databases,” American Historical Review (February 2010): 136-150.
  • What motivates this article? Why does whether women milled rice during the Middle Passage matter?
  • How do you know what is in a database you are working with? “Thousands of new Brazilian and Portuguese voyages have been added, correcting the Anglo-focused distortion of TSTD1.”
  • What limitations do databases have?
  • What does she mean by “unquantifiable data”?
  • What cautions does she offer about databases? “to answer, they can be rigid and inflexible, locking in outmoded research and questions and not allowing for new ones. Databases are not a higher form of knowledge that can somehow trump other kinds of research. Scholarship is not a zero-sum game.”

Cohen and Rosenzweig, chapter 7, “Owning the Past
  • What do you need to know about copyright law? How much do Cohen and Rosenzweig want you to worry about it?
  • Do course instructors still use course packets?
  • What stance toward copyright do you expect from digital historians?
  • What are the costs associated with acquiring permission to use published sources in a digital project?
  • “Good copyright citizens—cooperative residents of the digital commons—don’t try to grab rights they don’t have.”
  • What is Creative Commons?
  • What is fair use?

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