Sustaining MedArt


    Sustaining Medart: Interviews Inside and Outside the VMW

    While interviewing attendees of the International Congress on Medieval Studies for the Sustaining MedArt project, and after beginning the transcription of these interviews in the Visual Media Workshop, it is interesting to reflect on how both processes are different. 

    During the interview process, if you’re anything like me, you gauge the people around you before walking up and asking to interview them. The good thing about asking random people at a conference if you can interview them is that you will usually only receive one of two answers; yes, or no—so it’s a low-risk situation. Luckily for me, most of the people I approached did agree to an interview, most after a preliminary conversation about where each of us was from and what kind of work we were doing. Before each interview began, it was important to ask if the person was alright with being recorded, and most individuals agreed. During the interview it was important to simultaneously keep on track with the order of question you were asking, stay engaged with the person answering the question, and also be aware of the fact that the iPad was recording the entire encounter. During such a multi-tasked process it is sometimes difficult to remember everything a person said in order to pick out certain themes, unless that theme is recurring in almost every single interview. In the case of the interviews that I carried out, one major recurring theme that was easy to remember because of its frequency was that people said they often go to Google first when searching for images of medieval art and architecture.  

    Inside the lab, we listen to each interview as best as we possibly can in order to transcribe them. Although most are fairly easy to hear, some have proved extremely difficult to hear and so take longer to transcribe. The transcription process is much different from the interview process. You are hearing the interview out of context, you cannot see the person/s speaking, and non-verbal communication is lost. You are also not engaged with the conversation in the same way as if you were present during the moments of the interview. These, I think, are important to consider in any project that involves doing on-site interviews.

    What is most helpful about transcribing these interviews is that we now have data that we can work with, data that we can have handy in a spreadsheet, and data that we can code and extract themes from using grounded theory. Some interesting themes that have already been extracted are trust in the authority and reliability of the MedArt website, that the site is relatively simple and easy to use, especially for students, although many would like the site to have a search bar or other option to ease navigation. Some other themes include expressing guilt or concern over using Google due to frequent lack of attribution and good quality images, and a belief that the site should be promoted via academic entities in order to secure preservation funds. 

    For now, transcribing the interviews and extracting themes continues! 

    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  • Coggle Mind-Map of Sustaining MedArt Bibliography

    Mind-Map of Sustaining MedArt Bibliography


    Creating a Bibliography for Sustaining MedArt

    The process for creating a bibliography for the Sustaining Medart project began with looking at a mashup of keywords and themes from the grant application of the project, and of course discussions in the Visual Media Workshop with Aisling Quigley, and having been involved in the interviews that we carried out for the project at the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI.  Websites, PDFs, and journal articles worked themselves out of the woodwork as I searched for terms such as “preserving websites”, “digital preservation policy”, “website usability”, “digital collections”, “digital galleries”, “online museums”, “digital image collection users”, “grounded theory”, “qualitative coding”, “coding interviews”, “analyzing interviews”, “1990s websites”, and more. Eventually I had to figure out how to make sense of it all; how to put all of these resources in a logical order.  

    The major themes that I found throughout the articles, which turned into categories and sub-categories within the bibliography, include the following: Usability, with the sub-categories Aesthetics and another for Metadata, User Perspective; Image Databases and Collections, with the sub-category of Issues in the 1990s; Preservation and Access, with the sub-categories of Images, Websites, Policy/Policy Development, and Project Management; and Grounded Theory, with the sub-category of Coding and Analyzing Interviews. 

    Usability was an obvious one. While carrying out the interviews, the biggest aspect we focused on was testing how usable people found the website; whether they could intuitively find what was asked of them to find. Regardless of opinion, the task that they had to complete was more about the logical navigation of the website. The resources that I gathered for this section and its subsections include articles and books on the functionality of digital materials for research in the humanities, how individuals experience and react to digital archives and museums, how viewers react to the quality of images, and the user perspective, interaction, and understanding of metadata found in digital image collections. I’ve invested a lot of time in the Usability section due to its prominence within the interview process. 

    The second section that I’ve spent the most time on thus far is Preservation and Access. When searching for articles and trying to find relevant sources for Sustaining MedArt, the majority fell into the category of preservation policy and scholarly advice on how to develop that policy. With any digital preservation project, developing a preservation policy is very important, especially if new individuals become involved later down the road. The sub-category for Websites contains some important case studies for website preservation, including a case study on preserving the Lighthouses of Australia website, and a reference to preserving two HTML exhibition websites created by the MoMA.

    My thinking behind placing Coding and Analyzing Interviews as a sub-category of Grounded Theory is that coding and analyzing interviews, which are qualitative and opinion-based in nature, fall under Grounded Theory as a research model. Grounded Theory as a larger category is one that I still have to do some further reading on in order to add to the category within the bibliography. 

    *Mind-map made using Coggle

    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt