NeMO: NeDiMAH Methods Ontology launched!

30 July 2015 Comment

via LORNA M. HUGHES Blog post

I’m delighted to announce the launch of NeMO, The NeDiMAH Methods Ontology, a major new component of the international digital humanities research infrastructure.

NeMO is the final research output of the European Science Foundation Network for Digital Methods in the Arts and Humanities (NeDiMAH). It is a comprehensive ontological model of scholarly practice in the arts and humanities. NeMO was developed by the Digital Curation Unit (DCU), ATHENA RC in collaboration with the NeDiMAH Ontology Working Group. For more information, please see: http://www.nedimah.eu/content/nedimah-methods-ontology-nemo. The direct link to NeMo is http://nemo.dcu.gr.

Background: NeDiMAH, and understanding Digital Humanities in Practice

NeDiMAH was a ESF Research Networking Programme (RNP) funded from May 2011-May 2015. It was a collaboration of 16 ESF Member organisations, and was co-Chaired by myself, Susan Schreibman (University of Maynooth, Ireland) and Fotis Jannidis (University of Würzburg, Germany, from 2011-14).

NeDiMAH brought into partnership the digital humanities researchers of16 NeDiMAH Member countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK). The Network built a collaborative forum to research the practice of advanced digital methods in the arts and humanities, via an extensive programme of activities. NeDiMAH explored key areas of theory and practice in a number of methodological areas, via Working Groups. Areas of focus included the analysis of time and space, visualization, linked data, large scale data analysis, editing, manuscript imaging, temporal modeling, and scholarly communications. The reach of these activities has been documented visually in a series of maps of digital humanities activities across Europe:

http://www.nedimah.eu/content/events-maps, and http://www.nedimah.eu/content/map

Through our activities, the Network was able to get a sense of the diversity of practice of digital humanities around Europe, and to understand and demonstrate the collaborative and trans-national nature of digital humanities, and to demonstrate the integration of digital approaches into all aspects of the research lifecycle. Our objective was to understand better the impact that digital methods have had on transforming scholarship in the arts and humanities, and the potential for extending the benefits of digital research to the creative industries, the commercial sector, and public policy and planning. Collaboration has been key: with scientific and technical disciplines; with data science; with libraries, archives and museums; with existing European research infrastructures including Europeana, CLARIN and DARIAH. The essential complexity of the digital environment means that individual researchers and small groups are less able to exploit it effectively, so collaborative models are emerging as the norm.

The evidence gathered by NeDiMAH is an excellent basis for understanding the impact of core elements of current digital research: the seamless integration of data, and a critical engagement with its management and preservation as part of the humanities research life-cycle; the ability to scale up (and down) while working with heterogeneous data from diverse sources; skills for the critical analysis and interpretation of data created locally, and by commercial entities; and the experience of embedding digital scholarship in cultural contents, and those that promote widest public engagement.

At a time when attempts to define the digital humanities can be contentious, NeDiMAH has provided a powerful example that the digital humanities is essentially understood through practice, and that a critical framework for digital research within the ‘big tent’ of digital humanities must be based on a reflection of the diverse and rich work carried out to date.

This work will be the basis for future knowledge production in the humanities that takes advantage of digital tools, methods and content. It has been consolidated in NeMo, the main and final output of NeDiMAH. NeMo is a formal expression of the practice of digital humanities that explores this richness and complexity, and provides a valuable resource for critical and peer review of digital outputs. It also demonstrates directly the scholarly ecosystem that underlies digital research in the arts and humanities as a distinctive intellectual practice with considerable impact within and without the Academy.

About NeMO

NeMO is a unique resource that brings together the digital content, tools and methods that are at the heart of the digital humanities. It brings together work developed by our partners at the DCU, ATHENA RC, including past and current empirical work on scholarly practices (developed in the context of Preparing DARIAH, EHRI, and DARIAH-EU); their Scholarly Research Activity Model (developed for DARIAH-GR); and research into the need for expansion of existing digital humanities taxonomies, such as the taxonomy underpinning arts-humanities.net and now the basis for the classification of Digital Humanities at Oxford. It was decided early on in the programme of NeDiMAH activities that a taxonomy is not complex enough to explore the diversity of Digital Humanities in practice, based on exemplars drawn from the NeDiMAH Methodological Working Groups.

NeMO is a CIDOC CRM - compliant ontology which explicitly addresses the interplay of factors of agency (actors and goals), process (activities and methods) and resources (information resources, tools, concepts) manifest in the scholarly process. In addition to providing a formal ontology for Digital Humanities, it includes methods for classification and a shared vocabulary.

Benefit of NeMO for the Digital Research Community

Despite an enormous investment in the creation of digital collections for research, very little funding has been invested into discovering what scholars actually do with ‘all this digital stuff’: digital content, but also the methods that enable us to discover, annotate, compare, and analyze digital content; and the tools that make this work possible. The first initiative to do this in a comprehensive way was the AHRC ICT Methods Network, based at King’s College London, which I ran from 2005-8. This developed the taxonomy that was the basis of arts humanities.net as a first attempt to formally classify the ‘methodological commons’ of digital humanities.

NeDiMAH went beyond this, taking the research into DH in practice into a European forum, and fostering the development of NeMO. We hope this will help to formalize and codify the expression of work in the digital arts and humanities, and make it possible to explore the inter, multi, and trans disciplinarity that is at the heart of the most exciting work in the digital humanities. It shows the human aspects of digital infrastructure: the collaborations among people that make the integration of content, tools and methods possible.

Having a means to formally describe the practice of digital humanities will contribute to the development of a commonly agreed nomenclature in Digital Humanities: something that typically happens with the maturing and consolidation of disciplines / research domains, so this is an important stage in the history of Digital Humanities.

Next Steps

The major next step is to populate the ontology with more existing taxonomies, case studies and exemplars, and to develop the community of researchers who use it.

While NeDiMAH funding has ended, an activity within the DARIAH.EU Virtual Comptency Centre 2 will continue to develop NeMO through the establishment of the Digital Methods and Projects Observatory (DiMPO). DIMPO will develop and provide an evidence-based, up-to-date, and pragmatically useful account of the emerging information practices, needs and attitudes of arts and humanities researchers in the evolving European digital scholarly environment, for the benefit of the digital humanities research community. It seeks to achieve this objective through the inception of a longitudinal mixed methods research and monitoring programme on the information practices and scholarly methods employed in digitally-enabled arts and humanities work across Europe, and through the digital dissemination, validation and enrichment of research outcomes by the scholarly community.

Further to DiMPO, the NeMO team will seek to collaborate with Europeana Research, the newly-launched research portal of Europeana, supports and fosters research in the humanities and social sciences through the meaningful re-use of Europeana content and metadata. The work will be taken forward at a series of workshops and case studies orgnaised by Europeana Research to further scope the best way of developing NeMO as a methodological layer for the international e-research community. This will maximise the value of national and international e-research initiatives by developing a methodological layer that allows arts and humanities researchers to develop, refine and share research methods that allow them to create and make best use of digital collections, as well as methods.

http://nemo.dcu.gr

For more information about NeMO, please contact Lorna Hughes (Chair of the NeDiMAH Methods Ontology Working Group), or Panos Constantopoulos, Agiatis Benardou, Costis Dallas (Digital Curation Unit, ATHENA RC, who developed NeMO), via the contact form.