Digital Humanities: Humanities research in the digital age
Digital Humanities: Humanities research in the digital age

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Digital Humanities: Humanities research in the digital age

Session 2 Intellectual Property, access and digital humanities research

This session is written by Anne Alexander and Hugo Leal from The University of Cambridge.

This session discusses the copyright challenges arising from the ease with which digital copies of creative works proliferate. You’ll also look at how licensing systems allowing the re-use of creative works have developed in response to this issue. The Open Access movement is one significant trend within academia which has embedded new ways of thinking and practices relating to the ownership and control of research.

Finally, you’ll look at building ethical principles into data collection and research design while respecting your obligations under data protection legislation.

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This session grapples with some of the challenges which arise in a world where copying is easy, and copies proliferate exponentially fast. How can we keep track of who to credit for the creative work involved in the process of making digital content? Especially if we're working with digital representations of other media, such as historical manuscripts, paintings, or recordings of live performances? Copyright and other intellectual property frameworks have tended in the predigital age to restrict the reuse of other people's work without express permission of the original creator.

You'll be introduced to one of the major efforts to facilitate sharing and reuse of creative works by labeling digital content clearly. Many cultural heritage and academic collection holding institutions, such as major libraries, galleries, museums, and archives use the Creative Commons system to make their digital collections available for research and enjoyment without further cost.

We will also explore why you need to be a good steward of your own data. And how keeping records where you found the data you're using in your research is crucial. There are many different routes you might take to gather data for digital humanities research. You might access via a user interface, or via an application program interface, otherwise known as an API, or you might access via direct download, or via a collection holder making a copy on a physical medium, such as a hard drive, and delivering to you.

In addition, you may be creating your own digital data from original materials-- for example, by visiting an archive and taking your own photographs. In all of these cases, you need to make sure you are keeping track of the following points-- where and how you got it, how you changed it, who should be credited, who can make further use of it. A formal way to achieve this is through the creation of a data management plan. Finally, you'll be introduced to some key issues in data ethics, including your responsibilities under the General Data Protection Regulation, which applies to any data you collect with identifiable living humans in it.

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By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  • understand the challenges of appropriate attribution in a digital world
  • recognise Creative Commons licenses and the FAIR principles of data stewardship
  • grasp how issues of rights and access may affect your own research.
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