Digital Workflow in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Data Ethnography

  • Smiljana AntonijevićEmail author


This chapter applies data ethnography, seeking to understand how scholars in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) produce, engage, and make sense of digital data, tools, and resources in their research practices. The study was part of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation–funded Digital Scholarly Workflow project conducted at the Pennsylvania State University from 2012 to 2016, and discussed in several publications (Antonijević, Amongst Digital Humanists: An Ethnographic Study of Digital Knowledge Production. London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; Antonijević and Stern-Cahoy, Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 14, 287–306, 2014, Developing Research Tools via Voices from the Field. DH+LIB Special Issue, July 2016. Retrieved from, Digital Humanities Quarterly, 12(3), 2018). The study focused on understanding how scholars in the humanities and social sciences engage with digital technologies in their research, and how their research workflows transform in the encounter with digital scholarship. Through case studies, observations, surveys, in-depth interviews, and contextual inquiry, the study sought to provide a detailed record and contextualized understanding of HSS scholars’ digital knowledge production observed close to the field. This research thus also analyzed minute details of scholarly workflows, examining how digital data, tools, and resources get integrated at different research activities. It concludes with a discussion of how data ethnography and ethnographic understanding of digital workflows can enhance understanding of digital scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, and recommendations for educational and tool development initiatives in this field.


Data ethnography Humanities and social sciences Digital Scholarly Workflow Pennsylvania State University Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Data management and curation Digital Humanities Digital scholarship Digital archiving Preservation research Data management Data comforts and anxieties 



Portions of this chapter were previously published as Smiljana Antonijević and Ellysa Stern-Cahoy (2018), “Researcher as Bricoleur: Contextualizing humanists’ digital workflows,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 12.3; available at

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Illinois Institute of Technology and BMC SoftwareBerkeleyUSA

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