The Knowledge Production Project
At the Middle East Studies Association 2016 annual meeting, the Arab Studies Institute (ASI) launched the Knowledge Production Project (KPP). Currently in its beta form, KPP is a visual and searchable database of all knowledge published in English about the Middle East and North Africa since 1979. Just as knowledge production is not static, neither is this database; the ASI team is continuously updating KPP.
KPP’s versatility is an asset for scholars and students alike. The project is divided into five subgroups: Trends, Online Sources, Connections, Think Tanks, and Production.
The Production and Trends sections share similar data, but vary in their visualization for a more diverse way to analyze patterns in knowledge production over time. Both tabs depict how knowledge on the Middle East and North Africa changes form from year to year, sometimes coming from many academic dissertations while others the knowledge is produced through television. Viewing the data through the Production tab provides users a clear and uncluttered graphic depicting spikes and drops in content production. However, the detail and quantitative data is not lost, a pop-out window including the exact number of films, books, dissertations, etc. is easily found by hovering over a source. Under the Trend heading, users can still grasp the broad picture surrounding knowledge production on the Middle East and North Africa, but the quantitative data is not hidden as it is with the Production tab, which muddles the visualization slightly. While the visualizations are fascinating, the “List” view available in the Trends section is most useful for research. There users can find full citations for books, dissertations, and articles.
Moving to the next section of KPP, the Sources tab is a compilation of online knowledge sources produced in and on the region. These knowledge sources range from blogs of individual citizens to government websites, and it is through this variety that the Sources section develops its depth. With this visualization method, scholars can read multiples perspectives on a topic. Where users find official government positions on an issue they can also learn about a local citizen’s thoughts on the same topic.
The Connections section is a web of relationships between individual experts and various organizations and think tanks. At first glance, the various nodes covering the visualization may seem overwhelming. However, KPP made navigating this vast network simple. Using the traditional search bar, users can refine the search terms by selecting expert, organization, or think tank the graphic is restructured. Narrowing the query makes sifting through the many nodes much easier, but given the very interconnected nature of these experts and organizations, it is common to stumble upon entries that did not initially appear in the first search.
The final aspect of KPP is the Think Tank Explorer. Here, users can find the focus of certain think tanks that are producing knowledge on topics related to their individual interest, the relevant articles published by the think tank, their financial/funding information, and their apparent political biases. This section of KPP does a phenomenal job of bringing together the other parts of KPP. When looking at a specific think tank, users can see the affiliated experts that are also used in the Connections tab. The ranking of think tanks in order of publications quantities relates to the ebb and flow of knowledge production trend depicted in both the Production and Trends sections. With the Think Tank Explorer, it is clear how each part of KPP builds off of the other to form a comprehensive research database.
Apart from the impressive collection of data organized in the Knowledge Production Project, the ability to save past searches makes this database all the more user-friendly. With the account feature, users are able to save individual articles found within a larger search and they can also save the entire search query. Such aspects make KPP an exciting new research tool, creating a single space for users to come and find necessary data and information on the Middle East and North Africa.
Learn more about the Knowledge Production Project and use the data visualization at http://app.knowledgeproduction.com. Feedback on the beta version is encouraged and may be provided through a feature on the data visualization website at any point in the upper right-hand corner.