WE1S “human subjects” research grounds big data study in our own communities, inspiring local actions that can be scaled and adapted.
What is human subjects research and why include it in a digital humanities project?
In addition to applying digital research methods, WE1S carried out human subjects research pilot projects at UC Santa Barbara (Spring 2019) and the University of Miami (Spring 2020) with IRB approval.1 Research consisted of 1) a survey, open to both undergraduate and non-undergraduate participants, with questions about educational background, the process of choosing a major, and experiences with the humanities, and 2) a series of focus groups in which participants discussed their perceptions of the humanities, learned about WE1S’s digital methods, and gave feedback on selected materials.
The goals of WE1S’s human subjects research were twofold. First, we wanted to understand how people experience the humanities in our own communities and put the “close reading of a campus” in conversation with a larger panorama of research about public perceptions of the humanities at a big-data scale. By inviting members of our communities into our research process at an early stage, we could provide space for human perspectives within a computational workflow.2 Second, we wanted to access points of view that were not adequately represented in our corpus of news materials, such as the voices of first-generation college students.
Human subjects research can also help WE1S make recommendations for moving from research to action. Informed by the interlinked processes of big-data research and human subjects research, we can develop advocacy practices directly responsive to our immediate communities and campuses. We can also build from these local experiences to suggest ways that others could ask their own research questions and create their own solutions elsewhere.
What did we find?
Based on our Human Subjects Research, we've reached a number of Key Findings, helping us to understand how members of our own communities perceive the humanities and how people experience the relationships between academic majors. Many of our results can usefully be put in conversation across the University of Miami and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Perceptions of the humanities:
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