The Processes of Literary Data Work

By Howard Rambsy II

One reason we call what we’ve been doing “literary data work” concerns our processes of moving from literary study to the collection and organization of data to the production of data sheets, charts, visualizations, and other compositions.

Our studies of literature do not always involve the uses of spreadsheets and data management tools, nor do we seek to transform all of our studies into visualizations.  And, we do data projects that don’t involve literature.

Ok, but when we tabulated hundreds of scholarly articles on Toni Morrison and created a scrollytelling composition or when we organized information on 100 novelists to create an interactive production, we were doing literary data work.

The processes of identifying, collecting, organizing, and analyzing information in the realms of African American literature and literary history is what we refer to, generally, as literary data work.