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Finding Culture in Data Preparation: Interdisciplinarity and the Phone Book

Authors: Wrisley, David Joseph
Ampofo, Prince
Mirza, Muhammad Wajahat
Keywords: phone directories;spatial humanities;digital humanities;Abu Dhabi;UAE
Issue Date: 23-Sep-2021
Publisher: European Association of Digital Humanities
Citation: Wrisley, David Joseph, Prince Ampofo and Muhammad Wajahat Mirza. Finding Culture in Data Preparation: Interdisciplinarity and the Phone Book. European Association of Digital Humanities 2021 Proceedings (Krasnoyarsk, Russia, 23 September 2021).
Abstract: Our paper emerges from the imaging and data preparation phases of the Abu Dhabi Calling! Project, studying late twentieth-century telephone directories from Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The printed directories (1970-2005), housed in the Frauke Heard-Bey and David Heard Collection of the Archives and Special Collections Division of NYU Abu Dhabi Library, contain hundreds of thousands of names of individuals and businesses. These data provide a rich opportunity to study the spatial and demographic features of the capital, creating a kind of urban "social map" [ kharita ijtima‘iyya] (Al-Douaihi 2014). The data document a period of rapid development, during which the population increased twentyfold, from 62000 in 1970 to nearly 1.5M in 2021. The Abu Dhabi telephone directory bears an organizational structure imported from a Western context, but which is not a perfect container for the complexity of information about this non-Western city. Seen from this perspective, our paper argues that the cultural complexities of sources must be reflected not only in project design, but also in stepwise project progress (digitization, cleaning, modeling and analysis), especially as digital humanities methods are increasingly adapted to non-Western settings and sources.
Appears in Collections:David Wrisley's Collection

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