Compatible Databases: Fostering Standards for Interoperable Data for Personcentric Network Visualizations

Micki McGee
Fordham University
Sociology and Anthropology

At a recent meeting of the meeting of digital humanities scholars, a representative of a major university library noted: “We no longer do projects based on scholars’ databases because we want to do projects that are first of a kind, not one of a kind.” The multiplicity and incompatibility of data and database formats that individuals and scholarly teams have independently developed have begun to encumber the development of the field. Due to the rapid pace of data collection and these numerous but incompatible data collection and curation, there is an urgent need in the humanities to bring together the field to consider how to address these questions of data(base) interoperability. This paper reports on the genesis of the Compatible Data Initiative ( in the Yaddo Circles, Crowded Page, Orlando, and Phylo projects (all database projects with person-centric network mapping components), and reports on the first meeting of the CompD group, held at Fordham University and the New York Public Library, September 23-25, 2011. The paper also maps the questions that face the field and this working group, including but not limited to: 1) databases or data -- opening the door to the semantic web with XML, RDF, and JSON; 2) can data interoperability borrow from the work of the hard sciences (for example, geology or bioinformatics) or are humanities questions and vocabularies fundamentally more nuanced?; 3) developing interoperable vocabularies: controlled vocabularies vs. user-generated metadata; 4) data standards or data interoperability - fostering consensus or developing linking tools?

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