Announcing Relata - A Critical Search Tool
February 25, 2021
It's easy to find scholarly works that are similar or related to those you already know. But how to search for works that offer fresh critiques or counterpoints? Relata, an experimental search tool based at MIT and developed in cooperation with the Society for Cultural Anthropology, centers the analytical moves or relations between individual works.
Scholars rely on digital tools to search for publications relevant to their areas of research and teaching. Yet most search tools are based on principles of keyword or concept matching that rank results by popularity and similarity. Such tools can reflect biases and inequalities, reproducing patterns of exclusion and marginalization. What might search look like if it instead privileged values of epistemological pluralism and critique?
Relata (https://relata.mit.edu) is an experimental search tool for humanistic scholarship. It seeks to map conversations in sociocultural anthropology by identifying analytical moves or relations—namely, absence, critique, extension, incorporation, reanalysis, and refinement—among scholarly works. In its pilot version, the search interface displays results based on relations explicitly identified by scholars. Users of Relata, at any career stage or institutional location, are invited to expand the database by adding new works and identifying new relations among works