Thursday, February 14, 2013

Explorations of Zotero - Archival and Organization

Overview and Step One 
We looked at a number of the resources, such the Archive Grid, Zotero, and the Monk Project.

Archive Grid: We could map and locate physical archives, search by topic, and get links to the appropriate archive websites with contact information.

Zotero: Keeps track and downloads information from resources found online. Captures and collects bibliographic information and places it into user-created folders.

Monk Project: Helps identify patterns in texts, complementary to Word Hoard and pulls from The Nora Project and various databases.

The Center for History and New Media was also an interesting collection of various open-access resources available online. It had a broad listing of resources for different historical periods/categories.

Exploring Zotero 
For the second part of the assignment, Christine and I chose to work within Zotero to build a bibliography for our course. We spent a fair amount of time simply getting the program to work, but immediately began to see its utility. We learned that, based on the source, it’s going to catalogue resources in a different way (Google Books versus PDF versus Database listing) and the information will differ depending upon the kind of database accessed. We also learned that in working with the tool we can add our own information if it is not present, create notes detailing our thoughts, and tag entries for specific purposes, further enhancing the organizational utility of the program.  However, some obstacles involve where and how you access resources. We began by working off campus and, as such, were not able to collect the same kind of data by adding sources from Zotero. Even when signing in remotely, there were still some issues in getting the program to successfully archive and store PDF original documents on the individual computer. One needs to be careful about how one adds documents and whether the correct proxies are set up for user access to protected content.

I feel that Zotero could help in broad concept tracing if we were to use tags associated with different rhetorical terms. It might allow a larger purview of sources from which we could draw connections between texts that might not otherwise be readily visible. But because of the user-nature of inputting tags, it could be less useful at the beginning of research, in that the user wouldn’t necessarily be able to comprehensively tag the text. Tags can also help organize a list of search terms used to acquire the sources input into the bibliography. Essentially the cross-searching abilities—finding keywords in the content of all documents stored in your library—mean that you can easily find patterns across texts. In twenty minutes I don’t believe we can actually fully appreciate the full utility of this text.

I feel that this resource could be incredibly helpful for tracing concepts across specific individual texts, pointing to where connections might exist. Because this is a tool for organizing sources, it’s a frame for understanding whatever you’re looking at, while allowing you to see the way that your sources overlap. Once you build a library, you could search agency and all texts that have that term should appear. So it could be seen as searching history through similarity.

- Christine Maddox Martorana
- Bret Zawilski

1 comment:

  1. Christine and Bret:

    You have offered a thorough and reflective discussion of Zotero's affordances and limitations (at least, given the time and constraints of the assignment and of my questions). Your last paragraph communicates the most to me, especially your recognition of Zotero's cataloguing, sorting and tagging functions as a "frame," and the allusion to "searching history through similarity." These are mature realizations indeed. I will be interested in following this up during class discussion next week.

    You gave one example of what this could mean by noting the ability to term-search across all "texts" in your Zotero library. But so as not to limit ourselves to just term-searching -- even though I know we are doing a lot of it! -- I wonder what other kinds of things you mean by "searching history through similarity"?

    Also -- and this may be an imperfect question -- do you get the sense that the way in which Zotero is meant to work tends to privilege certain kinds of web resources over others? I don't mean just the obvious fact that it will aggregate what is most readily available on the Web, but rather I mean as a bibliographic tool, what assumptions must Zotero (and similar bibliographic tools) make about how we search (for) historical data?

    Nicely done again.

    -Dr. Graban