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Semantic Biographies Based on Linked Data

Project Goals

We aim at developing methods and infrastructure for representing biographical narratives using Linked Data, as well as practical demonstrators in which usefulness of the new technology is tested and shown. The general idea is provide the reader with a richer reading experience by providing her texts with additional linked contextual information, such as the space and time of biographical events, and links to related persons, historical events, publications, paintings etc. Biographical data can also be used as a basis for Digital Humanities research, where e.g. networks of people are studied.

As a first experiment, the Semantic National Biography based on 6300 short biographies of the National Biography of the Finnish Literature Society was created with an online demo and a research paper (cf. Publications section below).

Research on biographical data is also of concern in the Reassembling the Republic of Letters project where SeCo leads the People and Networks Work Package, as well as in the Cultures of Knowledge project where we collaborate with University of Oxford and Stanford University regarding research on epistolary data of people active during the early modern period.

These projects were/are funded by Tekes and the Linked Data Finland consortium, and by the EU COST Office and Mellon Foundation.

Bio CRM: A Data Model for Representing Biographical Information for Prosopography

One of the results of the project is Bio CRM, a conceptual reference model for representation of biographical information, with focus on prosopographical research. Bio CRM provides a semantic data model for harmonizing and interlinking heterogeneous data from different biographical data sources. The model includes structures for basic data of people, personal relations, professions, and events with participants in different roles.

The core design principles of the data model are:

  • The model is a domain specific extension of CIDOC CRM, making it applicable to not only biographical data but to other CH data, too.
  • The model makes a distinction between enduring unary roles of actors, their enduring binary relationships, and perduing events, where the participants can take different roles modeled as a role concept hierarchy.
  • The model can be used as a basis for semantic data validation and enrichment by reasoning.
  • The enriched data conforming to Bio CRM is targeted to be used by SPARQL queries in a flexible ways using a hierarchy of roles in which participants can be involved in events.

See more information about Bio CRM in the working paper.

Contact Persons

Prof. Eero Hyvönen, Aalto University

Dr Eetu Makelä, Aalto University

MSc Jouni Tuominen, Aalto University



Eero Hyvönen, Miika Alonen, Esko Ikkala and Eetu Mäkelä: Life Stories as Event-based Linked Data: Case Semantic National Biography. Proceeedings of ISWC 2014 Posters & Demonstrations Track, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, October, 2014. bib pdf link
This paper argues, by presenting a case study and a demonstration on the web, that biographies make a promising application case of Linked Data: the reading experience can be enhanced by enriching the biographies with additional life time events, by proving the user with a spatio-temporal context for reading, and by linking the text to additional contents in related datasets.
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