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Semantic Biographies Based on Linked Data

Research 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 to 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. prosopographies and networks of people are studied.

From Semantic National Biography of Finland to BiographySampo

As a first experiment, the Semantic National Biography based on 6300 short biographies of the National Biography of Finland of the Finnish Literature Society was created with an online demo in 2014 demo and a research paper. This work has continued to cover a larger biography set of 13 000 life stories and extended to developing tools and visualizations for biography and prosopography research. (Cf. publications below.)

The first public version of the Semantic National Biography of Finland was renamed BiographySampo and is published on Sept 27, 2018.

Reassembling the Republic of Letters

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:

See more information about Bio CRM in the the working paper and the BD2017 paper.

Reassembling the War History of Military Personnel and Units of WW2

A key goal of the project WarSampo - Finnish WW2 on the Semantic Web is to reasseble the life stories and narratives of WW2 soldiers and army units based on Linked Open Data from differents data sources. For this, event-based modeling and an extension of CIDOC CRM is used. (Cf. publications below.)

Publishing Printed Person Registries on the Semantic Web

In this project, a printed person registry (short biographies) of 10 000 alumni of the prominent Finnish high school Norssi in 1867-1992 was digitized and transformed into a semantic portal, enriching the data from external data sources, and providing the end user with faceted search and visualization tools for prosopographical research. (Cf. publications below.)

U.S. Congress Prosopographer

In this project, a database of 12 000 biographical records of U.S. Congress legislators (1789-2018) was transformed and enriched into a Linked Data service on top of which tools for biography and prosopography were created. (Cf. publications below.)

Contact Persons

Prof. Eero Hyvönen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki (HELDIG)

MSc Petri Leskinen, Aalto University

Dr. Jouni Tuominen, University of Helsinki (HELDIG) and Aalto University

Publications

Submitted papers

Minna Tamper, Petri Leskinen and Eero Hyvönen: Visualizing and Analyzing Networks of Named Entities in Biographical Dictionaries for Digital Humanities Research. January, 2019. Submitted for review. bib
Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen, Minna Tamper, Heikki Rantala, Esko Ikkala, Jouni Tuominen and Kirsi Keravuori: BiographySampo – A Paradigm Shift for Publishing and Using Biography Collections on the Semantic Web. November, 2018. bib pdf
This paper argues for making a paradigm shift in publishing and using biographical dictionaries on the web, based on Linked Data. Firstly, a biographical dictionary on the web should provide the end user with an enhanced reading experience of biographies by enriching them with data linking and reasoning. Secondly, the web publication should include not only biographies for humans to read but also versatile tooling for 1) biographical research of individual persons as well as for 2) prosopographical research on groups of people. To support these arguments, we present the designing principles and the implementation of the semantic portal ”BiographySampo – Finnish Life Stories on the Semantic Web” especially from the end user’s point of view. The system is based on a Linked Data service and knowledge graph extracted automatically from a collection of 13 100 textual biographies, written by 900 researchers. The texts are enriched with data linking to 16 external data sources and by harvesting external collection data from libraries, museums, and archives. The portal, consisting of seven different interlinked application perspectives, was released on September 27, 2018, for free public use for Digital Humanities researchers and the general public.

2019

Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen, Minna Tamper, Heikki Rantala, Esko Ikkala, Jouni Tuominen and Kirsi Keravuori: BiographySampo - Publishing and Enriching Biographies on the Semantic Web for Digital Humanities Research. Proceedings of ESWC 2019, Springer-Verlag, June, 2019. Accepted. bib pdf
Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen, Minna Tamper, Heikki Rantala, Esko Ikkala, Jouni Tuominen and Kirsi Keravuori: Demonstrating BiographySampo in Solving Digital Humanities Research Problems in Biography and Prosopography. The Fourth Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 2019 (DHN2019), CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Copenhagen, Denmark, March, 2019. bib pdf link
Eero Hyvönen and Heikki Rantala: Knowledge-based Relation Discovery in Cultural Heritage Knowledge Graphs. The Fourth Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 2019 (DHN2019), CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Copenhagen, Denmark, March, 2019. bib pdf link
Matti La Mela, Minna Tamper and Kimmo Kettunen: Finding Nineteenth-century Berry Spots: Recognizing and Linking Place Names in a Historical Newspaper Berry-picking Corpus. The Fourth Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 2019 (DHN2019), CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Copenhagen, Denmark, March, 2019. bib pdf link
Eero Hyvönen: Historiallinen paikkatieto semanttisessa webissä: Biografiasampo. Positio, no. 1, Maanmittauslaitos, February, 2019. bib pdf
Heikki Rantala: Yhteyshaku semanttisessa webissä. MSc Thesis (in Finnish), University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science, January, 2019. bib pdf
Tavallisessa haussa etsitään yksilöitä, kuten henkilöitä tai paikkoja. Joissain tilanteissa esimerkiksi historian tutkija voi olla kiinnostunut myös etsimään yhteyksiä henkilöiden ja paikkojen välillä. Tässä työssä esitetään metodi tällaisen yhteyshaun toteuttamiseksi käyttäen semanttisen webin sisältämää avointa dataa. Työssä muodostettiin graafi, joka sisältää kuvauksia Suomen kulttuu- rihistorian henkilöiden ja paikkojen välisistä kiinnostaviksi arvioiduista yhteyksistä. Graafi luotiin SPARQL CONSTRUCT -kyselyillä. Yhteyksien hakemista varten luotiin web-sovellus, joka hyödyntää fasettihakua. Tarvittavien SPARQL CONSTRUCT -kyselyjen luominen ei osoittautunut erityisen hankalaksi, mutta niiden soveltaminen yleisemmin eri aineistoihin vaatii jonkin verran työtä. Yhteyksien fasettihaku osoittautui mielenkiintoiseksi. Fasettihaku mahdollistaa haun tarkentamisen askel kerrallaan. Lisäksi yhteyksien suhteellisia määriä on mahdollista vertailla erilaisten rajausten mukaan. Tämä tarjoaa aineistoon uusia näkökulmia.

2018

Jouni Tuominen, Eero Hyvönen and Petri Leskinen: Bio CRM: A Data Model for Representing Biographical Data for Prosopographical Research. Proceedings of the Second Conference on Biographical Data in a Digital World 2017 (BD2017), vol. 2119, pp. 59-66, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Linz, Austria, 2018. bib pdf link
Biographies make a promising application case of Linked Data: they can be used, e.g., as a basis for Digital Humanities research in prosopography and as a key data and linking resource in semantic Cultural Heritage (CH) portals. In both use cases, a semantic data model for harmonizing and interlinking heterogeneous data from different sources is needed. This paper presents such a data model, Bio CRM, with the following key ideas: 1) The model is a domain specific extension of CIDOC CRM, making it applicable to not only biographical data but to other CH data, too. 2) 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. 3) The model can be used as a basis for semantic data validation and enrichment by reasoning. 4) 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.
Petri Leskinen, Eero Hyvönen and Jouni Tuominen: Analyzing and Visualizing Prosopographical Linked Data Based on Biographies. Proceedings of the Second Conference on Biographical Data in a Digital World 2017 (BD2017), vol. 2119, pp. 39-44, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Linz, Austria, 2018. bib pdf link
This paper shows how faceted search on biographical data can be utilized as a flexible basis for filtering target groups of people and, in particular, how generic data analysis and visualization tools can then be applied for solving prosopographical research questions based on the filtered data. This idea is demonstrated and evaluated in practice by presenting two application case studies: 1) linked data extracted from a printed registry of over 10 000 alumni (1867–1992) of the prominent Finnish high school Norssi, and 2) a knowledge graph extracted from 13 000 short biographies of significant Finnish people (from 3rd century to present times) in the National Biography of Finland. In both cases, the data is enriched by linking their entities with several other external datasets.
Goki Miyakita, Petri Leskinen and Eero Hyvönen: Using Linked Data for Prosopographical Research of Historical Persons: Case U.S. Congress Legislators. Digital Heritage. Progress in Cultural Heritage: Documentation, Preservation, and Protection. 7th International Conference, EuroMed 2018, Nicosia, Cyprus, Springer-Verlag, November, 2018. bib pdf
Minna Tamper, Petri Leskinen, Kasper Apajalahti and Eero Hyvönen: Using Biographical Texts as Linked Data for Prosopographical Research and Applications. Digital Heritage. Progress in Cultural Heritage: Documentation, Preservation, and Protection. 7th International Conference, EuroMed 2018, Nicosia, Cyprus, Springer-Verlag, November, 2018. bib pdf
Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen, Minna Tamper, Heikki Rantala, Esko Ikkala, Jouni Tuominen and Kirsi Keravuori: Biografiasammon tekoäly yhdistää ja rikastaa suomalaiset elämäkerrat semanttisessa webissä. Aalto-yliopisto, Semanttisen laskennan tutkimusryhmä (SeCo), Nov, 2018. bib pdf
Biografiasampo-järjestelmä käynnistää uuden aikakauden elämäkertakokoelmien julkaisemisessa ja käyttämisessä verkossa. Järjestelmän ydinaineistona on Kansallisbiografia ja muut Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran (SKS) ja tieteellisten seurojen toimittamat pienoiselämäkerrat, yhteensä 13 100 elämäntarinaa, joita on kirjoittanut 900 suomalaista tutkijaa. Biografiasammon innovaationa on luoda kieliteknologian, tekoälyn ja semanttisen webin teknologioiden avulla elämäkertojen teksteistä ja niihin eri lähteissä liittyvistä tiedoista tietämysverkko (knowledge graph) ja kansallinen tietoinfrastruktuuri, joka koostuu miljoonista tietojen välisistä yhteyksistä. Tietämysverkko on julkaistu linkitetyn datan palvelussa, jonka varaan on toteutettu seitsemästä sovellusnäkymästä koostuva älykäs, kaikille avoin ja maksuton verkkopalvelu biografiasampo.fi kansalaisten ja digitaalisten ihmistieteiden tutkijoiden käytettäväksi.
Petri Leskinen, Goki Miyakita, Mikko Koho and Eero Hyvönen: Combining Faceted Search with Data-analytic Visualizations on Top of a SPARQL Endpoint. Proceedings of VOILA 2018, Monterey, California. CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Vol. 2187, October, 2018. bib pdf
Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen, Minna Tamper, Jouni Tuominen and Kirsi Keravuori: Semantic National Biography of Finland. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 3rd Conference (DHN 2018), pp. 372-385, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Vol-2084, Helsinki, Finland, March, 2018. bib pdf link
This paper presents the vision of publishing and utilizing textual biographies as Linked (Open) Data on the Semantic Web. As a case study, we publish the live stories of the National Biography of Finland, created by the Finnish Literature Society, as semantic, i.e., machine “understandable” metadata in a SPARQL endpoint using the Linked Data Finland (LDF.fi) service. On top of the data service various Digital Humanities applications are built. The applications include searching and studying individual personal histories as well as historical research of groups of persons using methods of prosopography. The biographical data is enriched by extracting events from unstructured and semi-structured texts, and by linking entities internally and to external data sources. A faceted semantic search engine is provided for filtering groups of people from the data for prosopographical research. An extension of the event-based CIDOC CRM ontology is used as the underlying data model, where lives are seen as chains of interlinked events populated from the data of the biographies and additional data sources, such as museum collections, library databases, and archives.
Eero Hyvönen: Semanttinen web. Linkitetyn avoimen datan käsikirja (Semantic Web. Handbook of Linked Open Data). pp. 271, Gaudeamus, Helsinki, Finland, March, 2018. bib link
Goki Miyakita, Petri Leskinen and Eero Hyvönen: U.S. Congress Prosopograher - A Tool for Prosopographical Research of Legislators. ISWC 2018 Posters & Demonstrations, Industry and Blue Sky Ideas Tracks, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Vol 2180, Monterey, Califonia, 2018. bib pdf

2017

Jouni Tuominen, Eero Hyvönen and Petri Leskinen: Bio CRM: A Data Model for Representing Biographical Data for Prosopographical Research. Biographical Data in a Digital World 2017 (BD2017), Linz, Austria, November, 2017. bib pdf link
Petri Leskinen, Eero Hyvönen and Jouni Tuominen: Analyzing and Visualizing Prosopographical Linked Data Based on Short Biographies. Biographical Data in a Digital World 2017 (BD2017), Linz, Austria, November, 2017. bib pdf link
Petri Leskinen, Jouni Tuominen, Erkki Heino and Eero Hyvönen: An Ontology and Data Infrastructure for Publishing and Using Biographical Linked Data. Proceedings of the Workshop on Humanities in the Semantic Web (WHiSe II), CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Vienna, Austria, October, 2017. bib pdf
This paper describes the ontology model and published datasets of a digitized biographical person register. The applied ontology model is designed to represent people via their enduring roles and perduring lifetime events. The model is designed to support 1) prosopographical Digital Humanities research, 2) linking to resources in semantic Cultural Heritage portals, and 3) semantic data validation and enrichment by using SPARQL queries. The linked data approach enables to enrich a person s biography by interlinking it with space and time related biographical events, persons relating by social contacts or family relations, historical events, and personal achievements.
Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen, Erkki Heino, Jouni Tuominen and Laura Sirola: Reassembling and Enriching the Life Stories in Printed Biographical Registers: Norssi High School Alumni on the Semantic Web. Proceedings, Language, Technology and Knowledge (LDK 2017), pp. 113-119, Springer-Verlag, Galway, Ireland, June, 2017. bib pdf link
This paper presents the idea to enrich printed biographical person registers with linked data related to events that took place after the register was published. By transforming printed historical documents into structured data, semantic search to written texts can be provided for the reader. Even more importantly, life stories of historical persons can be extended based on data linking by extracting semantic structures from printed texts, and by combining this data with external datasets and data services. Such linking provides an enriched context for prosopographical research on people in the register, as well as an enhanced reading experience for anyone interested in reading the biographies. As a concrete case study, a register 1867–1992 of over 10 000 alumni of the prominent Finnish high school “Norssi” was transformed into RDF, was enriched by data linking, was published as a linked data service, and is provided to end users via a faceted search engine and browser for studying lives of historical persons and for prosopographical research.

2014

Eero Hyvönen, Miika Alonen, Esko Ikkala and Eetu Mäkelä: Life Stories as Event-based Linked Data: Case Semantic National Biography. Proceedings 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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