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Accepted Paper:

Digital long-term data archiving of ethnographic material: practical and ethical challenges before and after field research  


Gertraud Seiser (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

An increasing number of funding bodies are demanding that the research data collected be made available to the public. I will discuss some of the challenges that arise in this context on the basis of my experiences from the perspective of the field researcher.

Paper long abstract:

Many anthropologists have a very reserved attitude towards the digital long-term archiving of ethnographic data. They fear that field diaries and interviews could be taken out of context and misinterpreted by others. In addition, a lot of information is confidential and can be used to the detriment of the research subjects. The generation of the necessary metadata is also extremely time-consuming.

I argue in favour of digital long-term archiving because it makes long-term projects aimed at social and cultural change researchable in a new way. I am currently in the process of preparing data from two projects for long-term archiving. In the first case, the field research was carried out without addressing the question of subsequent long-term archiving, in the second case this option was increasingly integrated into the research process. All research was conducted in cooperation with colleagues and students. The materials include handwritten field diaries, drawings, sound recordings, photos, and videos on various data carriers.

Based on the experiences made in the process, I would like to present the following topics for discussion:

- Data protection and informed consent of the participants;

- selection of material suitable for archiving;

- obtaining the necessary metadata;

- data organization and documentation.

Finally, I argue that situation-specific solutions are best found in close cooperation between field researchers and professional archivists. In my experience, the quality of archived data depends significantly on a consideration of appropriate long-term archiving strategies even before the actual ethnographic research begins.

Panel P058
Digital research infrastructures in social and cultural anthropology: approaches and challenges for conducting, archiving and sharing research