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Unlocking the Past in the Digital Age: Research Questions, Methods, and Best Practices

16th November 2023, 9:30–13:15
Place: House of Science and Letters (Tieteiden talo), room 505, Kirkkokatu 6, Helsinki (map)


This half-day seminar will explore issues that all digital humanities projects are facing today: how best to process – structure, compare, contrast and share – data, how to guide users in understanding these choices and the local specificities of the data, and how to combine qualitative and quantitative research methods. In "All Data Are Local: Thinking Critically in a Data-Driven Society" (MIT Press, 2019), Yanni Alexander Loukissas emphasizes that we should learn to analyze data settings rather than data sets; this seminar follows in Loukissas' footsteps and asks what unknown and unexpected insights we can gain by paying critical attention to the biases and temporal and spatial layers in the data we process and study. The seminar will also provide concrete examples of data sets and settings currently being aggregated and used in digital humanities research projects, and will discuss the potential impact of such research.

The seminar is organised by the research project Constellations of Correspondence: Large and Small Networks of Epistolary Exchange in the Grand Duchy of Finland (CoCo) 2021–2024, funded by the Research Council of Finland (decision numbers 339828, 340834 and 339918). The research consortium includes the Finnish Literature Society (PI Dr. Ilona Pikkanen), University of Helsinki, Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities (HELDIG) (PI Dr. Jouni Tuominen), and Aalto University, Department of Computer Science (PI Prof. Eero Hyvönen). Regarding Digital Humanities research on epistolary data on the Semantic Web at Aalto University and HELDIG, see also the CoCo project homepage of the SeCo group and our earlier work From Reassembling the Republic of Letters to "LetterSampo – Letters on the Semantic Web".



Sharing Data & Building Infrastructure – Lessons Learned and Future Prospects
Dirk van Miert (Huygens Institute for History and Culture of the Netherlands & Utrecht University)

Indexing Images and Finnish Folklore: Ontology Design Patterns and Networks of Art Classifications
Charles van den Heuvel (Huygens Institute for History and Culture of the Netherlands & University of Amsterdam)


11–11:15 Coffee break


Bridging Quantitative and Qualitative Conceptual History of Democracy with Parliaments as the Analytical Nexus
Pasi Ihalainen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

Communication Now and Then: Analyzing the Republic of Letters as a Communication Network
Mikko Kivelä (Aalto University)



A Digital Look at the History of Fiction in Finland in the 19th Century: Challenges and Future Prospects
Veli-Matti Pynttäri (University of Eastern Finland)

Nineteenth-Century Epistolary Metadata as a Research Resource
Ilona Pikkanen (the Finnish Literature Society)



The seminar is free and open. Register yourself below for catering by November 6th. Welcome!

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