Text: Kaisa Järvelä

FSD Provides Online Access to Writing Competition Data Collected by Finnish Literature Society

The Finnish Literature Society has now deposited eight digital datasets at the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, FSD. The archived data contain texts which have been written for various writing competitions held by the society. There are plans to archive such digital textual material in the future both in the society and in the data archive, if creators of data and participants give permission for it.

The archive of the Finnish Literature Society, SKS, is a veritable treasure cove for research but traditionally researchers have had to visit the society premises in Helsinki in person to gain access. As a result of the cooperation between the society and the FSD, part of the writing competition data are now available to be downloaded online through the Aila Data Service maintained by the data archive. The data archive does not translate qualitative data into English, so the data are available in the original language, which is mainly Finnish.

So far, eight textual datasets from writing competitions have been archived at the FSD, and at least five more are to be archived in the near future.

Archiving is straightforward in cases where the Finnish Literature Society has asked the researcher before data collection whether the data can be archived at the FSD for further research and study purposes. If the researcher agrees, permission for archiving will be asked automatically from all persons sending their texts to the writing competition.

Parenthood after Divorce and Food Diaries

The archived material from writing competitions is varied. The eight datasets now available in Aila are a good indication of this. They include media and food diaries, and cover subjects such as parenthood after divorce, technology in everyday life, pornography, disability, climate change and environment, and sexual minorities. Future datasets will focus on, for instance, indoor air quality problems and pets.

Development Manager Arja Kuula-Luumi from the FSD says that researchers living outside of Helsinki seem to have found the Literature Society data in Aila. By mid-February 2016, 54 users had downloaded one or more of these datasets, and 49 of them from somewhere else than Helsinki. Research use is restricted in the sense that Aila gives access only those texts that were sent in a digital form to the competition but not the handwritten ones. However, Arja Kuula-Luumi believes that browsing the digital texts will tell researchers whether it is worth their while to travel to Helsinki to gain access to the handwritten texts preserved in the of the Finnish Literature Society.

Data archived in anonymized form

The data archived at the FSD do not contain personal data. Writers’ names and if needed, the personal information referring to third parties mentioned in the texts have been removed. According to the law, the Finnish Literature Society can preserve the data with personal data since it is the original data collector and the maintainer of the information system.

Arja Kuula-Luumi hopes that a solution will be found which will allow the data archive to preserve the data in the authentic form with all personal information included. The biggest challenge in anonymising writing competition data is that it is now always clear whether a text is fiction or whether it talks about real events. If it is fiction, anonymizing it constitutes a breach of the writer’s copyright.

Future plans for cooperation

One possible form of cooperation between the Finnish Literature Society and the FSD might be that the FSD would store the material of the Archive on Traditional and Contemporary Culture in cases where they are part of a data entity selected, collected and digitized by a historian. There might be some data and privacy protection issues, however, since it is not possible to ask for consent before data collection from the writers of letters or diaries written long ago.

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