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Enabling a Virtuous Cycle of Research in the Humanities (VISCERA)
The goal of the VISCERA project is to develop tools that support each step in the lifecycle of a digital humanities project, as well as to crucially enable the results of such research to be published as data for others to use in further research.
To ensure the tools developed meet the needs of humanities users, they are being developed iteratively in relation to concrete case studies in collaborating digital humanities projects. The task of the computer scientist is then to see beyond these individual studies; to identify common components that allow the tools to generalize beyond the projects under immediate scrutiny.
ContextThe core project is lead by D.Sc. Eetu Mäkelä, under funding from the Academy of Finland for 2015-2018. However, as described, the project closely interacts with multiple others, listed below.
Linked Open Data Science Service (LODsci), 2015-2016This project, underway at the Semantic Computing Research Group of Aalto University is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture as part of the national Open Science and Research initiative. The aims of this project closely align with those of VISCERA, in aiming to develop tools and support for publishing and using scientific data in the context of a Linked Open Data service.
Reassembling the Republic of Letters, 2014-2018An EU COST Action with 31 participating countries seeking to plan a state-of-the-art digital infrastructure within which to collect a pan-European pool of highly granular data on the Republic of Letters. This involves designing tools for collecting, standardizing, navigating, analysing, and visualizing unprecedented quantities of epistolary data, and for facilitating new forms of international and interdisciplinary scholarly collaboration.
Cultures of Knowledge, 2009-2017Based at the University of Oxford and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CofK project develops the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) database, which intends to act as a hub for collecting metadata on the Republic of Letters. Here, work has thus far focused on ensuring data quality: supporting the strong identification of people, places and letters in data to be entered, as well as discovering duplicates already in the database. In the future, work would also focus on tools to support visualizations and research being done based on the database.
Interfacing Structured and Unstructured Data in Sociolinguistic Research on Language Change (STRATAS), 2016-2019Funded by the Academy of Finland, this project integrates and aligns VISCERA tool development to the field of historical sociolinguistics. Partners in the project come from the Research Unit for the Study of Variation, Contacts and Change in English, as well as the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Helsinki. Additional support on user interface development is gained from the Tampere Unit for Computer-Human Interaction (TAUCHI) at the University of Tampere. In addition to the above mentioned projects, collaboration is also ongoing without dedicated funding with the following institutions:
Humanities+Design Research Laboratory, Stanford University
In collaboration with the Humanities+Design laboratory at Stanford University, a version of the VISCERA tools is being designed that targets individual humanities scholars. Using the tools to be developed, the scholars should be able to import existing rich structured data for their own research. Having cleaned, explored and expanded that data to make grounded inferences, they could then also finally publish their interpreted data for others to use.
University of Colorado Boulder
In collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder, a long-standing collaboration is continuing on improving access to and understanding of historical primary sources, in this instance relating to the First World War. Technically, this project deals with bridging the gap from OCRed primary source material to structured collection metadata in e.g. Europeana and the Digital Public Library of America. Concretely, a contextual reader interface has been developed, where concepts and named entities such as events, people and places are automatically extracted from the sources under study, and additional information on them, as well as other sources pertaining to them are presented for the user.
Previously, most of the work in the project has been preparatory, where requirements have been gathered by going over the humanities research processes, and the functionalities to be developed simulated through ad-hoc disconnected components, tied together and supplemented by manual work of the computer scientist.
Through these collaborations, a prevalent common process of inquiry was identified - the need to explore, as well as contrast differently constrained subsets of a dataset. As concrete examples, this might be looking at the correspondence networks of different individuals and comparing them, or looking at how possible values of a linguistic variable behave with respect to associated metadata and each other.
Now, a tool, nickmed Khepri, is being developed that could support this process. To ensure that the tool to be developed meets the variant needs of the associated projects, the intention is to develop a modular set of components that can be connected and configured to respond to the needs of a particular humanities task and data.
To support this, the Khepri tool utilizes the view-based querying paradigm, where data is presented simultaneously from different perspectives, with each perspective acting both as a visualization as well as a means to constrain what is shown in all the views. A proper implementation of the paradigm also allows for quick informed variation of query parameters, and thus dynamic exploration.
Because the views interact in a defined way, they can be developed as separate components targeting the major visualization classes such as geographical, temporal or statistical. Each individual Khepri instance can then select from these the views suitable for that particular use.
At present, a first complete iteration of the tool has been developed, configured for use in historical sociolinguistics (see this publication for details).
- Linked Data for the Republic of Letters @ Workshop on Biographical Linked Data and Prosopography, 22-01-2016
- Introduction to Digital Humanities -course @ the University of Helsinki, Fall 2015
- Named Entities in the Digital Humanities @ Named Entity Recognition in Digital Humanities Workshop, 09-06-2015
- Data Sources and Tools for People and Networks @ Reassembling the Republic of Letters Conference, 22-03-2015
- Open Research in the Humanities @ Open Science Show & Tell, 10-03-2015
- What to do with Linked Data? @ LODLAM Training Day at SemTech 2014, 19-08-2014
- Recon, a multipurpose tool for semi-automatic matching of records against a SPARQL endpoint
- CORE, a contextual reader based on Linked Data