Bibliomatrix

EMANDULO’s Bibliomatrix is an online experimental research tool that draws together data pertinent to the history of southern eastern Africa prior to the onset of European colonialism. The Bibliomatrix functions as a gateway between historical information and the underlying materials on which that historical information is based. The tool illuminates networks of production and reproduction of the historical materials we treat as sources and reveals how these productions and reproductions are reshaped by scholarship about them.

Bibliomatrix, in this respect, is a web of the interactions that have shaped the production of sources. Over time, it is anticipated that the scope of the project will continue to expand as more and more information is integrated.

The Bibliomatrix has two major components. One constituent are the ‘pods’- sets of research notes pertaining to an underlying historical topic. Each of these resource notes serves to condense some of the most important information on the topic while simultaneously connecting the user to the underlying source materials, some of which are accessible on FHYA’s EMANDULO website via hyperlinks. One of our pods, for example, composes nearly thirty research notes containing biographical information pertinent to James Stuart, some of his most influential African interlocutors, their historical notes, and the history of their research notes as archival objects.

The second component is the visual tool. These ‘mind-map’-like matrixes represent the relationships and interactions between the key people, events, and materials. Each pod has its own corresponding matrix, where each block is connected via a hyperlink to its equivalent research note. The purpose of these matrixes is to reinforce, in a striking visual sense, the extent to which knowledge and information about the past has been co-produced, shaped, and reshaped over time. In the future, it is anticipated that links will also be formed between different pods to create a ‘macro-matrix’ that overcomes the constraints imposed by working within the bounds of a single pod.

For the moment, the matrixes are static. Software is presently being developed, however, to introduce dynamic matrixes.  The significance of these mobile matrixes is that they overcome the difficulty of necessarily designating a single block as the centre of a pod’s matrix. This is an important consideration given the project’s focus on southern eastern Africa prior colonialism. This is because this period of history has been dominated by Eurocentric approaches and conventions at the expense of African oral sources and perspectives. The advantage of dynamic matrixes is that they thus allow the researcher to sidestep the issue of privileging particular resources or actors ahead of important African ones whose contributions have conventionally been suppressed.

To view a Bibliomatrix pod, click an icon below:

To access a paper addressing a more in-depth discussion of the Bibliomatrix, its innovations, and the challenges it poses for existing historiographical conventions, click here.

The Bibliomatrix project was first conceived by Henry Fagan and Carolyn Hamilton toward the end of 2019.  The idea was to create an online research tool that built on the groundwork completed by the former for his Master’s dissertation. Between then and 2021, the project underwent several stages of revision and evolution. In June 2021, a static version of the Bibliomatrix went live on EMANDULO for the first time. An updated version with a dynamic matrix component is forthcoming.

The templates for the Bibliomatrix’s pods were created by Henry Fagan. The software for the matrixes was sourced from Diagrams.net, with additional software customisation developed by Hussein Suleman. [The design for the static pages of the Bibliomatrix was created by Niek de Greef]. XXX, supervised by Hussein Suleman, is developing the software for the dynamic matrixes. Much of the project’s intellectual weight, with the input by FHYA team members, can be accredited to the work of Carolyn Hamilton, who has been an active pioneer within this field for over two decades. All of the research and writing undertaken to produce the Bibliomatrix’s research notes was done by Henry Fagan

Online from: 13 Apr 2021

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