Reanimating data: experiments with people, places and archives

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Education and Social Work

Abstract

In contemporary times archives are just a click away. There has been an extraordinary flourishing in personal and community archiving, using commercial and open access digital resources as a way of showing and telling about who we are. Emerging new contributor-audiences are offering transformed possibilities of a public and popular social science. Analogous shifts in academic practice have been initiated by funding bodies requiring that datasets are archived. This prescient move anticipated the digital revolution that would transform our ability to share and re-use data, assuring UK social scientists a leading role in debates around open archives and opportunities for data linkage and secondary analysis. Before 1996 the norm was that the documentation arising from qualitative social research was destroyed, lost - although some remained stored in attics and garages.

Our demonstrator project will secure and share an at-risk academic archive and bring it into dynamic conversation with a related community archive. We will harness the current extraordinary moment where lay and professional expertise are in dynamic equilibrium - with academia equipped to understand the protocols of long term preservation and community archives bringing new energy and imagination as to the value of data and what it might 'do' for and with us. At the same time, concerns about the ethics of visibility/ anonymity/ privacy, trust and the practicalities of sharing ownership, risk hindering the ability to realise these potentials. Through linking community archives with institutional repositories to facilitate an exchange of values, protocols and resources, we aim to develop the kinds of trust, imagination and inventive ethics for creative innovation to take place.

The substantive focus for our experiment is the question of teenage sexuality over a 30-year period, a question of public interest as well as academic contestation. We will work with two unique projects. The academic study is the influential ESRC-funded Women Risk and AIDS project (WRAP) conducted between 1988-90, involving 150 in-depth life history interviews with young women (16-21) in Manchester and London. The community archive is Manchester-based Feminist Webs a 'work space that acts as an archive and a resource for practitioners, volunteers and young women involved in youth and community work with young women'.

We will work with key stakeholders including archivists and museums, ethicists, youth workers, young people, data re-users, information scientists and data engineers, in order to do a number of things for the first time: return academic data to the community from which it was once extracted; to take careful risks in sharing documents without prior consent; enable distributed ownership using protocols to link institutional and community archives; re-enact research encounters.

Using drama methods with new generations of young women, practitioners and researchers, we will develop methods for public participation, collaborative analysis, to enact and re-perform the archive, creating new stories from our data, and new understandings of changes in the experience and portrayal of teenage sexualities over a complex thirty year period. We will create an open access online archive, including advice on practical and ethical guidelines platform, open access tools for data visualisation and analysis, that can be adapted and adopted by others, with the benefit of our learning on re-use, archiving and reanimating; including open educational resources materials targeted at schools as well as and trainee social scientists. Our aim is to inspire current and future researchers, academic and community-based, to archive and share their own data, to create linkage opportunities with community archives and academic datasets and popular research practices, which will allow us to better understand recent social change.

Planned Impact

This project will produce a range of outputs directed at, and in a form useful to, the range of stakeholders involved. Most of the outputs will be freely available through the open online archive which will also host a range of enriched resources. As well as the newly archived WRAP data, and new data from the project, there will be open education resources, methodological and ethical guidelines, as well as extensive documentation of our own process of working together, including performances and documentation of our two workshops with critical friends.

Direct Beneficiaries: The immediate beneficiaries will be youth workers and other informal and formal educators, health professionals working with young people, and young people involved in the project themselves. They will benefit from capacity-building through the development of research skills, including collaborative analysis and performance skills. Participating in crossgenerational conversations through the research team, as well as through analysis and performance of the data we are archiving, offers participants an opportunity for a deep engagement with the changing nature of teenage sexuality over a thirty year period. Ongoing access to the open archived dataset and the co-produced educational resources offers a pathway for these constituencies to continue to benefit beyond the life of the project.

Partners and Collaborators: Crucially the project will directly contribute to the development and publicising of Feminist Webs through bringing the archive to new audiences, and not least through creating live conversations with a flagship social science project and dataset, which had a profound impact on many of the youth workers who were a part of the Feminist Webs archive. The opportunities for data linkage here are far-reaching, as well as the opportunities for new audiences through the enriched archive. A further benefit here is the potential for documenting the impact of the WRAP project on a particular cohort of youth workers working in Manchester at the time of the original study. Planned events, including the workshops with critical friends, as well as public performances, will provide a site for local and regional networking, facilitating knowledge sharing around resources for engaging with teenage sexuality.

Influencers and Decision-makers: Our group of critical friends has been carefully chosen to maximise relevant input to our project, and with future dissemination possibilities designed in from the outset. In a contemporary context where teenage sexuality continues to be the object of many policy interventions, including now a statutory responsibility to provide sex and relationship education in England from 2019, we anticipate considerable interest in our outputs. We view teachers and youth workers and youth-focused organisations as key influencers here as they will have responsibility for introducing the new curriculum. We will work with BrookLearn as well as contribute to A-level sociology magazine as ways of disseminating our resources. Our international 'critical friends' Professor Julie McLeod and Deb Warr (University of Melbourne) will join us by skype or in person when on other trips to the UK and both inform debates here from other contexts as well as from the internationalisation of education policy more broadly. Additionally they will be important in bringing resource to new audiences in Australia where discussions about sex education and personal relationships in schooling are also very live. A further cohort of influencers here are professional archivists who are seeking to work more closely with community archives and members of the public, including young people; our project will create a range of methodological resources which will support new practices, including collaborations and linkages between institutional repositories and community archives.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Reanimating Data Project 
Description A short film created by Sue Reddish and Jim Dalziel for the research team, documenting the series of creative experiments that took place in Manchester during 2019/ as aprt of 'reanimating' the data from a research study (The Women, Risk & AIDS Project) that took place in the city in 1989. The film captures how youth groups, community groups and students reflected on this thirty year period and how norms, practices and feelings about sexuality and sexual health have changed over time. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The film effectively communicates the projects work in an engaging and accessible way. 
URL https://youtu.be/46ta2oCsWQs
 
Title Reanimating teenage sexuality in 1980s Manchester 
Description A temporary exhibition within the 'archives plus' area of Manchester Central Reference Library displaying original research materials from the Women, Risk & AIDS project which was conducted in Manchester in 1988/9 as well as new material arising from the Reanimating Data project in 2018-20. The project utilised three vitrines and display boards as well as conducting a public event on International Women's Day where members of the public could engage with original interview accounts and contribute their own memories to the archive in writing and by creating an embroidered square that would form part of a quilt. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The exhibition was disrupted by the closure of the library in the event of the Coronavirus pandemic 
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/uncategorized/international-womens-day-manchester-central-reference-lib...
 
Title The Reanimating Project 
Description A collaboration between the Reanimating Data research team and the Women's Theatre Society at the University of Manchester involving creative work with social science data and researchers leading to the an original script and performances (Feb 15/16 2020) which were also filmed. The focus of the work was 'what do sex and relationships mean to you?', taking as a starting point three indepth interviews with drama students at Manchester University conducted thirty years previously. The performance explored questions of continuity and change around sexual identity, consent, pregnancy, abortion and sexual identity. On the first night the performance was followed by a Q&A with young women and researchers. The development work informing the performance is captured in the following blog post http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/uncategorized/working-with-questions/. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The project had a profound impact on the participants and was also critical in the knowledge development for the research project, informing thinking and writing. 
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/uncategorized/standing-on-shoulders
 
Title What Really Counts: A Sound Installation 
Description Working with an archived data set - tape recordings of teenage boys talking about sex in 1990 - we stage a sonic encounter between then & now, analog & digital, us & them, who we were & who we are. Number is the organising motif of the piece. We notice numbers in young men's talk about sex and relationships; we understand the value of words spoken without interruption; we are sensitive to anachronism (then and now) and we revisit the questions of interviewers so that the materiality of our media speaks This sound installation was created as a collaboration between researcher (Rachel Thomson) and artist (Alex Peverett) working with original audio material from a social science research study. The piece was first staged as part of the Brighton Digital Festival in October 2019 at the Sussex Humanities Lab and subsequently at the University of Edinburgh in March 2020 at a one day event on Reanimating Data and June 2021 at the Oral History Conference. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The piece was an important development activity for the research 
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/events/what-really-counts-a-worm-hole/
 
Description This project has met its stated aims within the period of its funding and will continue to realise the aims subsequently through publications and methodological training activities. The project has succeeded in securing, digitising and archiving an at-risk landmark social science data set 'the Women Risk & Aids Project Archive', which is now held within the University of Sussex Digital Repository with an anonymised version available on an open access basis. In addition, the WRAP data set and the methodological innovations arising from the study, including a range of creative and educational resources, are curated in an online open access CMS Called FAYS (Feminist Approaches to Youth Sexualities) which uses the Omeka platform. This resource captures and shares the work of 'reanimating data' that was the primary innovation from the study - showcasing how the vitality of archived data has been 'unleashed' with youth and community groups, for example in the creation and staging of an original theatre performance. Key learning includes the distinct role of pedagogies of (i) 'ventriloquism' where stories are re-voiced enabling safe space for new meaning to be forged, (ii) 're-asking' questions that formed part of the original research and in doing so experiencing change/continuity, and (iii) 're-collecting', taking inspiration from the original collection of interviews to tell ones own stories and to collect the stories of others, embracing the democratic affordances of digital technologies to make new archives for the future.

The project has also been successful in its aim to build a community around the archive, inviting collaborators to create exhibitions within the FAYS site using material from the archive and contributing material of their own. In addition, the project blog has been utilised as a space for work-in-progress and collaboration and will itself be folded into the archive. We have succeeded in proof or principle for a step change in social science methodologies where collaborative archiving and the reanimation techniques are embraced as knowledge-generating practices. We will continue to articulate and promote this paradigm shift through publications, NCRM training activities and linked research projects including the addition of new data sets to the archive.

The substantive ambition of informing a new 30-year history of sexual and social change is being realised through collaborations with historians who are both using our data and writing with us. Importantly, we see the work of making a new sexual history as a collaborative and popular project. Informed by our creative collaborations and public engagement work we have, as anticipated, generated new pedagogic practices for teaching in RSE and in research methods training.

URLs
The project blog http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/
The FAYS Omeka platform https://archives.reanimatingdata.co.uk
The Figshare archive https://doi.org/10.25377/sussex.c.4433834.v2
Exploitation Route 1. There is enormous unrealised value in the social science back catalog.
2. Reanimating data is generative and engages a wide range of audiences.
3. There is a popular appetite for cross-generational collaborative knowledge building.
4. Live archiving is an accessible methodology with potential for community building and knowledge making.
5. A participatory approach to revisiting the social science data of the past is a powerful way of understanding social change and continuity.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://archives.reanimatingdata.co.uk
 
Description Impact form this research has been in three areas: Direct impact on the young people taking part: This project has engaged directly with around 60 young people, engaging them in direct educational activities exploring feelings and attitudes around emotional and physical well-being and sexual health as well as engaging them in discussions about their locality and how attitudes, services, opportunities and norms have (and have not) changed over time. Some participants engaged very deeply with the project and for them the experience of being involved has been transformative, leading to increased confidence, skills and self-awareness (for example those involved in the Women's Theatre Project). Members of the Women's Theatre project are now taking this work forward in collaboration with the National Youth Theatre. Impacts on young people involved their right to voice and learning - that they might have something worth saying that other people want to hear. There was also learning around creative / technical skills, in areas such as animation and theatre and performance skills and techniques. Impact on sexual health and youth work practitioners: We have worked collaboratively with practitioners throughout this project, collaboratively building a critical understanding of how the work of girls-work has changed over a thirty year period and re-building bridges between research and practice. The pedagogical learning through this project has been important and this is being shared with a youth work and educator community by Ester McGeeney in face to face presentations (for example for the British Educational Research Association) and through materials made available through exhibitions aimed at practitioners on the FAYS open access platform. Rosie Gahnstrom has adapted materials from the project for use with students at the University of Sussex REDS project and the Role Models project. Impact of teachers and students of social research methods: During the project we worked directly with teachers within higher education who want to use the WRAP materials as a basis for teaching students qualitative research methods. As a result of this we have developed a series of methods workshop for the NCRM focusing on how to use the archive for methods teaching. One of these was delivered at the NCRM Methods Festival 2021 (What is Reanimating Data) and one day workshop will be delivered in June 2021, forming the basis of a stand alone toolkit that will be available on the on the FAYS open access platform Impact on archivists: Our project also has lessons for archivists and we have worked with professionals from the archive and heritage sector throughout the project ensuring that this learning is captured. Key areas of innovation within the project include our approach to working ethically without explicit consents to archive; transforming access through techniques such as 'the feminist chat-bot', taking the archive into the community and live archiving. The task of communicating this learning in this area is being lead by Sharon Webb, including writing a paper aimed at an archivist audience. Webb and Moore have also devised a workshop (now presented four times) called 'What is Feminist Archiving' which is being taken up enthusiastically by an audiences that includes archivists and activists as well as an interdisciplinary group of academics.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Covid extension grant
Amount £53,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/V520652/1 
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2020 
End 09/2021
 
Title The Reanimating Data Project 
Description The Reanimating Data Project (2018-2020) - RAD - is a collaboration between academics, archivists and activists interested in young women's sexual health and empowerment. We are working with a set of interviews collected as part of a feminist social research study conducted in Manchester and London in 1988-90: the Women, Risk & AIDS project (WRAP). Our aim is to archive, share and reanimate this material as way of exploring change and continuities in intimate lives over a 30 year period.The RAD project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and involves the Universities of Sussex and Edinburgh and the community archive Feminist Webs. The RAD project team includes (at the University of Sussex) Rachel Thomson, Sharon Webb, Ester McGeeney and Rosie Gahnstrom (at the University of Edinburgh) Niamh Moore (and at Feminist Webs) Alison Ronan and Niamh Moore (again). Rachel Thomson was also part of the original WRAP project team in 1988/9. This collection contains project documentation, objects and items related to the different reanimation experiments conducted in 2019/20 (such as workshops with various youth and community groups and a sound installation). It also includes interviews with the original Women, Risk and Aids Project research team (Janet Holland, Sue Sharpe and Rachel Thomson) which were also conducted in 2019/20. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This data set includes new contextual information for the linked Women, Risk & AIDS project collection including oral history interviews with team members, as well as documentation of a range of experiments in reanimation of this material - showcasing what is possible in terms of data reuse as a method of investigation. This includes a student theatre production and educational work with youth clubs - involving direct impact on young lives. 
URL https://sussex.figshare.com/collections/The_Reanimating_Data_Project/4739462/1
 
Title The Women, Risk and AIDS Project 1989-90 
Description During the AIDS crisis of the late 1980s the ESRC commissioned a programme of social research investigating the sexual behaviour and values of the British population. One of these studies was the Women, Risk and AIDS Project, which sought to understand sex, risk and danger for young women. Led by feminist sociologists the project used interview methods with 148 women aged 16-21 living in Manchester and London between 1988-1990. The project was ground-breaking in documenting and problematising heterosexual cultures, shaping feminist health education responses. With the support of the Leverhulme Trust, the research was extended in 1991-2 to include interviews with 46 London-based young men. In addition to a range of articles the research was published in 1998 as a book (Holland et al.) The male in the head: young people. heterosexuality and power (Tufnell Press). In 2018 ESRC funding was secured to archive, share and reanimate this data set. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact 'Reanimating data: experiments in people, places and archives' is an 18 month funded study that has allowed us to secure and archive this landmark study and to undertake a series of experiments engaging new audiences with the materials. This has included a performance by the University of Manchester Women's Theatre Society, collaborations with three youth clubs in Manchester (Levenshulme Girls Club, The Proud Trust and The Hideaway); the creation of a sound installation in collaboration with multimedia artist Alex Peverett and staged at the Brighton Digital Festival and the creation of a feminist Char-Bot in collaboration with a Feminist Coding Workshop hosted by FACT as part of the CHASE network.We anticipate further impact after the end of the study as a range of users draw on the archive. 
URL https://doi.org/10.25377/sussex.c.4433834
 
Description Conference paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact (Rachel Thomson & Rosie Gahnstrom presented 'Is sex good for you? Risk, reward and responsibility for young women in the late 1980s', at a conference called Youth, Sexual Knowledge and Sexual Pleasure in the 1980s, part of a Wellcome Trust funded project seminar series on Body, Self and Family, University of Essex (online) April 26th 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description DIY feminist archival practices for researchers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Lead by Sharon Webb and Niamh Moore these online workshops explored feminist approaches to archiving by introducing our own project to create a digital archive with academic research data - interviews with young women about sexual health, sexual practices, relationships, from Manchester in 1989-1990 - and giving participants an opportunity to play with the archive. We reflected on recent developments in feminist archival theory and practice, and how these have informed our work and introduced the open-source platform we have used (www.omeka.org) explaining why we have used it, as well as pointing to other possibilities for creating online archives. We will described the feminist labours and ethics of care involved in creating an archive and with participants curated a new exhibition to add to our archive. This event has been run twice
First on 18th Nov. 2020 as part of the Sussex Humanities Lab Open Workshop Series. This online event had 32 participants (numbers capped at 30 and sold out with waiting list)
Second on 11th Feb. 202Maynooth University, Ireland, part of AHRC-IRC Network grant, www.ifte.network. This event had 20 participants (capped at 20 and sold out with waiting list)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://archives.reanimatingdata.co.uk/s/fays/page/feminist-archiving
 
Description International Women's Day Reanimation Showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A half day event held at Manchester Central Reference Library where the different collaborative projects that formed part of Reanimating Data were showcased including work with youth clubs, with students, with community groups and with professionals. All project participants were invited and the work was celebrated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/uncategorized/international-womens-day-manchester-central-reference-lib...
 
Description Presentation at ESRC Methods Festival, National Centre for Research Methods 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Online session titled 'What is Reanimating Data?' delivered online on Oct 25th 2022 by Ester McGeeney and Rachel Thomson to an audience of researchers, postgraduates and other interested parties. Part of a methods festival hosted by National Centre for Research Methods.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Reanimating Data Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Held at the University of Edinburgh this event shared the theory and practice of 'reanimating data' with an audience including students, artists, youth, sexual health workers and community workers and researchers. Practical ideas for creative work with young people were shared as well as examples of how data could be reanimated for artistic ends (a sound installation). The workshop also engaged the audience in live archiving, promoting the idea that that making and contributing to archives could be a popular and educational activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/events/reanimating-data-workshop/
 
Description Rematriating the WRAP Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A workshop held in the Dept of Sociology at the University of Manchester exploring what it might mean to 'rematriate' a data set to the place where it was created. Activities included convening a group of academics who were in the department in 1988, and bringing together members of the local archiving and heritage sector to explore how the data set might fit with a wider set of local archives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/events/event-2-rematriating-wrap-connecting-academic-and-community-arch...
 
Description Sound installation at Oral History & Media conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Staging of sound installation 'What really counts: a wormhole', as part of a special panel on 'Reanimating data:
remediating oral history archives' at Oral History and the Media conference July 10-11th 2021 (online).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/uncategorized/wormholes/
 
Description Working with young women in Manchester past and present 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A free half day workshop was held at the People's History Museum bringing together a regional network of youth workers and youth leaders from the past and present in order to collaboratively build a history of girls work in Manchester and to work creatively with archived materials from the Women, Risk & AIDS project conducted in the city in 1988-90.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://reanimatingdata.co.uk/events/revisiting-1989-working-with-young-women-in-manchester-past-and-...
 
Description Workshop on Reanimating Data 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 'Performing the archive: generating feminist time' (workshop, with Moore, McGeeney, Gahnstrom & Webb) delivered at The Material Life of Time, 2nd International Tempporal Belongings conference March 15-18 2021, https://qiqochat.com/e/UREhlQEBFYoidbWldqLztvZdH.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021