Early this month someone at the Dutch government entity for standards in a session asked about standards for maintaining narrative data (story collections). I don’t know any, and haven’t seen them either. Today someone else asked about the same thing. Narrative data contains a free format element (the ‘story’) and a range of qualifiers (either set by the story teller as sensemaking, or by the researcher as descriptors I imagine). I can see how you might need to declare a data structure, describing the qualifiers, and then add the data itself. This is perfectly doable in things like XML or JSON, but do any standards for it exist? A first search for data standards in qualitative research yields only checklists for designing qualitative research and reporting on it, which is something different.

Elicit.org surfaces a few papers based on the title above as prompt, that don’t seem to directly apply but might mention something worthwile.

One of the two asking me about it also mentioned Norma Bateson’s notion of ‘warm data’, which is data that preserves the interconnectedness of aspects in a complex setting and is sensitive to patterns (I’m reminded here of Gibson’s nodal points). While that provides a label for qualitative data, and adds patterns and constellations as a data item, I don’t see if it’s immediately useful for the question at hand about standards. Bateson’s explanations aren’t helpful here, as it mostly is a sales pitch to become a ‘warm data host’, whatever that means. This Bateson’s father is Gregory Bateson, which is an interesting link, w.r.t. mental maps consisting of ‘differences that make a difference’ (that Norma Bateson adopts into ‘warm data’ btw). It would be quite nice to be able to describe such things consistently.

If there’s isn’t a standard, getting to one would be quite ambitious. Creating a standard requires bringing on board at least some variety of stakeholders whose use cases can be covered by the prospective standard. Otherwise you’re just creating your own data format. Which in itself can be useful (I created one for my own booklists here), if only as a proof of concept, and at least it means the proposal is in actual use.

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