Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry (REF 2021 Practice Research Submission)

Elswit, Kate (2020) Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry (REF 2021 Practice Research Submission). The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. ISBN 978-1-8383967-7-0


This multi-component output investigates the complex questions and problems that make the collection, analysis, and visualization of data meaningful for dance historical analysis. While digital research methods have impacted most humanities and arts disciplines, the field of dance studies has yet to fully identify how it can benefit from these analytic approaches, which also limits its participation in ongoing interdisciplinary conversations.

Across the three phases of work are a core set of concerns regarding the ways in which digital methods are particularly suited to accounting for the scale and distribution of information necessary to better understand the translation, circulation, and transmission of dance. We therefore combine methodological approaches from the interpretive humanities with others drawn from data analysis and the digital humanities. The core of the research sits on the foundation of a creative and curatorial ‘digital humanities practice’ that contributes to an understanding of how digital humanities can both address and open up intellectual and methodological problems that matter to us as dance scholars. The inquiry develops through an iterative process of manually curating datasets, crafted from undigitized materials held by seven archives across the United States, which finds meaning and expression in tandem with exploratory visualization. At the same time as this practice supports all written components, we also argue that it manifests as research in itself that depend on a deep engagement with and interpretation of archival materials.

Earlier seed-funded phases of the project (2014–16 and 2016–18) laid the foundation for the ongoing third phase, which is supported by a three-year AHRC Research Grant (2018–21, AH/R012989/1). Although the research is ongoing, interest has been significant, resulting in nine invited talks to date. All datasets and print publications since 2016 are equally co-authored by Harmony Bench and Kate Elswit.


Published Version - PDF (REF 2021 Practice Research Submission)

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