In Weingart’s words “humanistic data are almost by definition uncertain, open to interpretation, flexible, and not easily definable.” On the other hand “node types [processed data] are by definition concrete; your object either is or is not” (…). According to this definition, by reducing data to fit the available tools, digital humanists’ work is limited in possibilities and therefore in outcomes. In addition, there are perspectives: who looks at what and in which way. Ad exemplum, Weingart tells us the story of a non-corresponding friendship, he writes: “According to Alex, his friends Betty and Carl are best friends. According to Carl, he can’t actually stand Betty”. At this point, do I still want to use tools such as Gephi to find out if a relationship, of any kind, did in fact occur between Alex, Betty and Carl? After I find out about that or any relationship, how do I know what kind of relationship I am looking at? Can Gephi or any other tool assist me in that? According to Weingart, “The structure and nature of a network might change depending on the perspective of a particular node, and I know of no model that captures this complexity.”
The LinkedJazz project put together an incredible amount of information on Jazz musicians via crowd sourcing. They listed several musicians and, in order to record which relationship occurred among them, they gave people a certain number of variables from which to choose. Each variable represents one type of relationship. The result is a graph that doesn’t only tell you that two given jazz musicians were somehow in relation but of which nature their link was. That proves Weingart wrong, or does it?
I think the great work done by LinkedJazz in mapping the relationship between the musician has been primarily to establish which relationships could have occurred. In that sense, LinkedJazz anticipated the unknown factor that Weingart couldn’t capture. By analyzing a certain number of variables (and only those) they narrowed down the possibilities and paved the road to a near successful outcome. Although brilliantly done, LinkedJazz did not overcome uncertainty. Why do I say that? From the website I could not understand how the relationship was verified. Second, the relationship chosen by an individual is still under the influence of one’s perspective. How was the information confirmed? Third, what if two or more musicians had multiple types of relationships?
I guess the next question is, how sure can we be about our data? If by using Gephi or Zotero or any other tools that can map out relationships between our files (I am speaking of files as we are all dealing with them, being books, artworks, people or digital surrogates), we must reduce our spectrum of possibilities, is this usage of any benefit? By narrowing down information do I make my data more accurate? If yes, then restrictions mean that I am able to only focus on a very specific number of possibilities which can unveil only some stories. Someone else might take the work from there and add another tile to the puzzle, and so on and so forth, till we can get as close as possible to a complete image which will embed a sophisticated level of accuracy.