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Bridging sight and insight: Visualization in action among digital humanists

Ma, Rongqian (2022) Bridging sight and insight: Visualization in action among digital humanists. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Emerging from the 1950s, Digital Humanities (DH) has gradually developed into an interdisciplinary research field between different research methods and conventions. As increasing numbers of scholars entered the DH landscape from various knowledge domains, scholarly discussions have concerned the connotations and extensions of DH without achieving agreement. However, these theoretical discussions failed to provide either empirical evidence to support their claims or sufficient insight into the shape of DH. In this dissertation, I aim to explore the current dynamics of digital humanities as a field from an empirical perspective, and particularly through the lens of inscriptions. Inscriptions have been widely used in science and technology studies to illustrate the disciplinarity of fields and as a vehicle to mobilize scientific communication.

In DH research, visual inscriptions (e.g., visualizations and graphs) have been increasingly applied in both research output and process, creating unprecedented opportunities to use them as a critical indicator to examine the cross-field collaborations among DH scholars and the field’s evolution. More specifically, I take a Latourian approach to investigate how digital humanists, broadly defined as any researchers or practitioners engaging in DH work, leverage inscriptions as "immutable mobiles" to produce, transfer, and communicate humanities knowledge, both in research outputs and during the research process. I apply a sequential, explanatory mixed-methods design, quantitatively examining the use patterns of inscriptions in DH journal articles from 2011 to 2020, before proceeding to the underlying, implicit decision-making processes and practices of visualization among digital humanists of various domains, using semi-structured interviews.

This dissertation contributes to scholarship in digital humanities, visualization, and science and technology studies. First, this dissertation offers one of the first empirical studies of inscription use in DH. The findings of the dissertation suggest a gradual evolution of DH into an empirical, data-driven, and formalized field, which, in the long run, contributes to a better understanding of the current dynamics as well as the future directions of DH as a field. Second, this dissertation develops a working taxonomy of inscriptions commonly used in DH research, contributing to visualization scholarship from the perspective of an under-evaluated research context and potentially accelerating visual data literacy among DH communities. Finally, this dissertation provides a basis for further cross-field, comparative research on inscription use, which has been a classic theme of discussion in science and technology studies that can also potentially contribute to research on scholarly communication and collaboration.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ma, Rongqianrom77@pitt.edurom770000-0002-7141-1056
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCurrier, James "Kip"
Committee CoChairMostern,
Committee MemberHe,
Committee MemberCorrrall,
Date: 2 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 April 2022
Approval Date: 2 June 2022
Submission Date: 25 April 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 177
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Computing and Information > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Digital Humanities, Visualization, Mixed-methods
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2022 21:10
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2022 21:10


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