The team’s work currently stands at the forefront of data-driven research methods on the 19th- century press. But beyond the trials, the application has the potential to save countless other scholars from bleary-eyed afternoons in the library stacks. Colligan sees the software as a compelling tool for other researchers and professionals, like journalists, who gather text and ask questions about plagiarism, text reuse, viral text and censorship.
New lab serves as big data research incubator
In summer 2016, Colligan co-launched SFU’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL) with English professor Michelle Levy, Web and Data Services Developer Michael Joyce, and Digital Scholarship Librarian Rebecca Dowson. As part of KEY, SFU’s Big Data Initiative, and in partnership with the SFU Library, the lab is a research incubator and source of training and mentorship for scholars across SFU. The DHIL team, which includes graduate research assistants, works to support SFU faculty and graduate students with digital scholarship through consultation, training, mentoring, research software development and technical support.
“We see it as laying the groundwork for different types of research that use data-intensive approaches, and that work with cultural data in particular,” Colligan says. “We're working with researchers, faculty and graduate students to mentor and support them in the work they're doing, and some of these projects can be experimental and exploratory.”
While Colligan’s project with the Wilde Trials Web App is highly data-intensive and relies on computational methods, other projects at the DHIL are focused on what she calls “archive building.” These researchers are leveraging the online environment to preserve and share archival information in interactive ways.
“We have a variety of projects on the go, keeping with the diversity of work that digital humanities encompasses,” she says. “Let's get humanities and social science scholars working with us who have questions, who are using digital and computational methods or working with cultural data and thinking about ways to preserve it and share it.”
Outside the lab and in her classroom, Colligan inspires her English and digital humanities students to explore digital tools and methods as a means of creative and critical expression. From Twitter narratives to map-based storytelling, she integrates her research practice with her teaching, introducing the next generation to new ways of interacting with historic and modern bodies of work.
“Digital humanities is not just about coding and learning how to code,” she says. “It's about being critical about digital research methods and digital analytical methods and also thinking critically about digital culture and digital media.”
The possibilities are endless.
Simon Fraser University is empowering our stakeholders to unlock big data for research, education and community impact. Building on a decade of leadership, SFU is investing in advanced research computing and connecting our campus community to new tools and resources to accelerate scholarship and innovation across every field of study for real world impact.
Learn more about KEY, SFU’s Big Data Initiative.