Today, scientists work with a variety of different media formats. Thus, in the course of a research process, a vast collection of different analog and digital sources is created. Especially at the beginning of a research process, which is often characterized by conceptual openness and a lack of structure, the great challenge for researchers is to work out one or more concepts from the collected material.
Elevation is a software concept that supports this initial stage of a research process and provides a useful feature set that gives researchers a better overview of their collected material. And how does that work?
Elevation is a database-driven client server software in which all entries are stored independently of each other in an endless stream together with a set of metadata. For this reason, all entries are individually addressable, searchable, filterable and can be restructured at any time. Since it is a web-based application, collaborative work is also possible.
This graph above illustrates the mental model behind this software concept. There are a total of five core functions on which the concept is based. Collect (1), comment and add categorised keywords (2), reflect and create connections (3), evaluate (5) and track the process (4). All these work steps, which researchers previously had to perform by using several documents or different programs or platforms, are now combined in one graphical user interface. Elevation therefore allows a holistic view and handling of one's own research materials.
Elevation Visual Design Concept (preliminary), 2019
One of the most important functions within the software, which distinguishes it significantly from common note taking apps, is that users can put all content created in the application into a (technical) relationship with each other. This allows them to visualize the relationships in their collected material over time and thus gain a better overview and deeper understanding. Furthermore, it is possible to export the restructured data as a package for further processing in other programs. So, we understand Elevation as a tool to deal with intermediate formats in the conceptual phase of knowledge work.
A prototype with reduced functions has already been used for two years in the context of ethnographic field research and has been tested by various users. This project was developed in collaboration with Dr. Séverine Marguin (Sociology) and Tobias Bleifuß (Computer Science) at the Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, 2016).