Welcome to the Digital Data Stories blog series! The Alexandria Archive Institute and Open Context advocate for data sharing, data literacy, open access, and community collaborations. In this series, we discuss our ongoing digital data literacy project, the goal of which is to promote easier use of digital open data by students, researchers, and the public.
In this series, Meghan and Paulina will share the process of developing, creating, testing, and evaluating digital exercises combining code and archaeological narratives.
Welcome to the Digital Data Stories Project! This project started with two questions: What do people need to know in order to use digital archaeological data, and how can we make learning to do it easier?
We began with a literature review. We were looking at everything, trying to figure out who else is trying to answer those two questions, or if there are good examples from areas associated with archaeology that would help us.
As I dove in, I read from many different fields. I read biology, geology, psychology, history, sociology, and zoology. (Zoologists know how to show off their data. Zoologists, respect.) I let the wild rumpus of learning happen, jumping from topic to topic, citation to citation, hoping for anyone doing ethical, open, linked-data outreach. The good news is, there are people out there doing it! The bad news is, there aren’t many, and some of those who think they’re doing user-friendly work…aren’t.
The goal wasn’t to call out projects though! The goal was to learn, so that we’d be ready to go when my compatriot on this project, Paulina Przystupa, came on board. Paulina, beyond being a top-notch archaeologist, is also a tech wiz, coder, and visualization fiend. While my role is to consider narrative, emotional resonance, and engagement for our data users, Paulina’s role is to build browser-based digital exercises. These will lead our users, one step at a time, through analyzing and interpreting data by DOING, instead of just watching or reading.
Right now, we’re exploring two related data sets for our first digital literacy tutorial. These include over 15,000 bones from domesticated and wild cattle. Over the next few weeks, Paulina and I will use the information about these bones to create tutorials that answer the questions:
- How do you find and read a data set on Open Context?
- How do you choose what kind of statistical model will best answer your questions?
- How do you write code to do the statistics?
- How do you use visualizations to show your reader your data and process?
Our proof-of-concept will take a potential user through what they need to understand and use existing archaeological information. Because we’re using a system of ‘values-based’ questioning, this means deciding who the user is that would be interested in this kind of tutorial.
This time, our imagined user is a 19-year-old female undergraduate archaeology student at a US university. But other tutorials will have other audiences, because there’s a lot of different people using digital data.
Over the next three years, we’ll be thinking about all of this. We’ll be doing a lot of exploring, because we don’t have the answers yet! We’ll be creating what we call ‘digital data stories’ to blend narrative, open linked data, and data literacy education in tutorials and mini-projects designed to help a variety of users. If this is interesting to you, stick around to follow our progress, or better yet, shoot us questions you want answered or comments about skills and exercises you want to see!