Embracing the Friction: Towards a computationally aware approach to humanistic data interfaces

  • Author / Creator
    Sollazzo, Anna
  • Inherent to interdisciplinary work is the negotiation of two or more sets of—often contradictory—domain epistemologies and methodologies. In the context of the Digital Humanities, the friction between its composite domains is particularly strong with respect to data processing and display, where the ambiguity, complexity, and nuance that characterise humanities data stand in opposition to the binary and discrete representations required by computationally compatible encodings. Digital Humanities data interfaces have historically submitted to the simplification and categorisation imposed by prevalent forms of scientific visualisation, and previous work imagining interfaces better suited to humanistic inquiry has largely focused on augmenting these standards. In this thesis I explore the potential of instead stripping away layers of abstraction to expose, centre, and challenge the principles and assumptions underpinning them. This work is built around a proof of concept of interface in this alternative style that is modelled after natural language database query systems, but which atypically exposes each step and difficulty of the question to query translation. I argue that an approach that forefronts human to machine conceptual mapping both addresses key humanistic concerns such data trajectory and user positionality, and also has an important capacity to engage with questions of computational possibility and limits. The theoretical grounding implied in the latter is essential to the elaboration of novel and critically conscious technologies that embody humanistic principles.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.