Investigating Linked Data Usability for Ancient World Research

Middle, Sarah (2022). Investigating Linked Data Usability for Ancient World Research. PhD thesis The Open University.



Linked Data technologies are used to describe and connect entities, based on features they have in common. Rich semantic descriptions, disambiguation capabilities, and interoperability allow investigation of new research questions and reveal previously undiscovered relationships. However, previous studies have shown that uptake of Linked Data among Humanities researchers has, thus far, been low, partly due to usability issues with the resulting tools and resources. I therefore set out to investigate how their usability might be improved, and how Linked Data technologies might most effectively be integrated with existing research methods. My study focused on the Ancient World, where Linked Data implementation seems to be higher than in other Humanities disciplines, and involved a survey and interviews to elicit user and producer needs from researchers in this subject area.

I start this thesis by introducing and contextualising my research topic in Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, I consult existing literature and datasets to discuss Linked Humanities Data implementation, its advantages, and current barriers. Chapter 3 provides an outline of my survey and interview methodologies, while Chapter 4 presents initial survey analysis and identifies themes for discussion in the subsequent chapters. Chapter 5 focuses on five research methods already embedded in the practices of Ancient World researchers, where Linked Data could effectively be integrated: Discovering, Gathering, Data Recognition, Annotating, and Visualization. In Chapter 6, I explore the user experience more broadly, including aspects such as interface design, reliability, and data quality. Chapter 7 then discusses areas of the production process that affect Linked Data usability: training, collaboration, user-centred design, documentation, access, and sustainability. My findings form the basis of a series of recommendations in Chapter 8, which focus on teamwork, openness and transparency, extensibility, user consultation, discoverability, sustainability, and communities, culminating in a Five-Star Model for Linked Humanities Data Usability.

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