Evolutionary Subject Tagging in the Humanities project publishes report

in ESTH, news
December 1st, 2011

The project team for the Evolutionary Subject Tagging in the Humanities project published the culminating white paper for the project: Evolutionary Subject Tagging in the Humanities; Supporting Discovery and Examination in Digital Cultural Landscapes.

The research interest in “evolutionary subject tagging in humanities research” grew out of both an appreciation for the value of subject classification in organizing and discovering information, and frustration with the limitations we encounter in currently available systems. Even as subject terms highlight and focus attention on relationships between information objects, particularly within academic disciplines, they can hide and blur relationships when trying to bridge multiple disciplines in one’s research.

Driven by desire to help humanities scholars more easily discover and examine information, the team’s early articulations of the problem led them to explore how we might fix it. Would additional subject tags improve discoverability? Would layering subject terms from multiple disciplines help? Is there a way to merge them? Is translation between disciplinary thesauri required? If more
subject terms are required, could we develop a scalable (sustainable) model for providing them? Would any of the efforts to improve the discoverability of humanities texts actually facilitate enhanced examination of the texts?

Repeatedly throughout the project, team members found themselves challenging each other about very basic assumptions that underlie subject classification and the use of subject terms for discovery and examination of information objects. Those conflicting opinions form a creative tension out of which the project and this paper have emerged. They continue to engage the team and to shape the Libraries’ exploration of how to improve discovery and examination of texts for humanities research.

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