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From Reassembling the Republic of Letters to
LetterSampo - Letters on the Semantic Web

Background - Republic of Letters on the Semantic Web

SeCo participated in the Digital Humanities EU COST action Reassembling the Republic of Letters 1500-1800, 2014-2018, led by prof. Howard Hotson (University of Oxford) and Dr. Thomas Wallnig (Universität Wien). Eero Hyvönen (Aalto University and University of Helsinki (HELDIG)) led the Work Group 2 People and Networks in the initiative involving over 30 countries. Related to this topic, there was also the project Cultures of Knowledge, phase III (2015-2017), at Oxford where SeCo collaborated with the Oxford and Stanford Universities with the goal of designing a Linked (Open) Data infrastructure, linked data service, and tooling for the underlying humanist scholarly community, based on the data harvested in the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) database and web service.

Next Step: LetterSampo - Historical Letters on the Semantic Web

Inspired by the international collaborations on the Republic of Letters and by the work on developing the Bio CRM data model for biographical and prosopographical data in various Sampo portals, the SeCo group moved on to designing and implementing

  1. a general framework "LetterSampo", based on the "Sampo" model and "Sampo-UI" framework, for publishing and using epistolary data on the semantic web and
  2. a semantic portal demonstrator "LetterSampo - Historical Letters on the Semantic Web" that supports Digital Humanities research on letter correspondences.

The idea, outlined in (Hyvönen et al., 2022), is that the general LetterSampo framework could be applied easily to create instances of epistolary portals by changing the underlying data and with a little adaptation in the user interface. In this approach the idea is not to create different UIs to accommodate differently represented datasets but rather to transform datasets into a harmonized "standardized" form, so that the same UI solutions and data-analysis tools can be re-used for different datasets. The goal of using a "standard" datamodel for representing epistolary data makes it possible to aggregate data from different local data silos into more global services, which is important, as letter data is typically available in geographically distributed repositories depending on where the letters were sent to.

To demonstrate and test the LetterSampo framework, it was applied to three international datasets: the CKCC corpus of the Huygens Institute in the Netherlands, correspSearch dataset aggregated by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, and Early Modern Letters Online database of the Oxford University. The framework is also being used in the CoCo project on Finnish correspondences in the Grand Duchy of Finland in the 19th century.

We welcome collaborations with researchers in humanities regarding epistolary data, and have started to collaborate with the network scientists prof. Mikko Kivelä and Javier Urena Carrion of Aalto University, with the goal of applying temporal network analysis tooling in epistolary data.

For a presentation and demonstration of the "LetterSampo - Historical Letters on the Semantic Web" system, see the video below:

From Republic of Letters 1500-1800 to LetterSampo from SeCo Research Group on Vimeo.

LetterSampo Demonstrator and Datasets Online

The online demonstrator "LetterSampo - Historical Letter on the Semantic Web" is availabe at:

https://lettersampo.demo.seco.cs.aalto.fi/

based of the aggregated data of the CKCC and correspSearch datasets. We also published these datasets as linked open data at the Linked Data Finland platform and at Zenodo.org.

Contact Persons

Prof. Eero Hyvönen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

Doctoral candidate Petri Leskinen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

Dr. Jouni Tuominen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

Publications

2022

Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen and Jouni Tuominen: LetterSampo – Historical Letters on the Semantic Web: A Framework and Its Application to Publishing and Using Epistolary Data of the Republic of Letters. Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage, ACM, November, 2022. bib pdf link
Bernardo S. Buarque, Aline Deicke, Malte Doehne, Martin Düring, Heiner Fangerau, Catherine Herfeld, Charles van den Heuvel, Eero Hyvönen, Roberto Lalli, Malte Vogl, Lea Weiß, Dirk Wintergrün: White Paper of the ModelSEN Workshop (April 2022). October, 2022. bib link
Petri Leskinen, Javier Ureña-Carrion, Petri Leskinen, Jouni Tuominen, Mikko Kivelä and Eero Hyvönen: Knowledge Graphs and Data Services for Studying Historical Epistolary Data in Network Science on the Semantic Web. May, 2022. Submitted for review. bib pdf
Jouni Tuominen, Mikko Koho, Ilona Pikkanen, Senka Drobac, Johanna Enqvist, Eero Hyvönen, Matti La Mela, Petri Leskinen, Hanna-Leena Paloposki and Heikki Rantala: Constellations of Correspondence: a Linked Data Service and Portal for Studying Large and Small Networks of Epistolary Exchange in the Grand Duchy of Finland. DHNB 2022 The 6th Digital Humanities in Nordic and Baltic Countries Conference, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Vol. 3232, March, 2022. bib pdf link
Esko Ikkala, Eero Hyvönen, Heikki Rantala and Mikko Koho: Sampo-UI: A Full Stack JavaScript Framework for Developing Semantic Portal User Interfaces. Semantic Web – Interoperability, Usability, Applicability, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 69-84, January, 2022. Online version published in 2021, print version in 2022. bib pdf link
Eero Hyvönen: Digital Humanities on the Semantic Web: Sampo Model and Portal Series. 2022. Semantic Web journal, accepted. bib pdf

2021

Javier Ureña-Carrion, Petri Leskinen, Jouni Tuominen, Charles van den Heuvel, Eero Hyvönen and Mikko Kivelä: Communication Now and Then: Analyzing the Republic of Letters as a Communication Network. Network Science, December, 2021. Prepint available: arXiv:2112.04336v1. bib pdf link
Eero Hyvönen: Sammon taontaa semanttisessa webissä (Forging Sampos on the Semantic Web). Tekniikan Waiheita, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 87-105, Tekniikan Historian Seura ry, July, 2021. bib pdf link

2020

Eero Hyvönen: Sampo Model and Semantic Portals for Digital Humanities on the Semantic Web. DHN 2020 Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 5th Conference, pp. 373-378, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, vol. 2612, Riga, Latvia, October, 2020. bib pdf link

2019

Howard Hotson and Eero Hyvönen: Topics. Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age (H. Hotson and T. Wallnig (eds.)), pp. 137-148, Göttingen University Press, 2019. bib link
Eero Hyvönen, Ruth Ahnert, Sebastian E. Ahnert, Jouni Tuominen, Eetu Mäkelä, Miranda Lewis and Gertjan Filarski: Reconciling metadata. Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age (H. Hotson and T. Wallnig (eds.)), pp. 223-235, Göttingen University Press, 2019. bib link
Howard Hotson, Thomas Wallnig, Jouni Tuominen, Eetu Mäkelä, and Eero Hyvönen: People. Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age (H. Hotson and T. Wallnig (eds.)), pp. 119-136, Göttingen University Press, 2019. bib link

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.
Jouni Tuominen, Eetu Mäkelä, Eero Hyvönen, Arno Bosse, Miranda Lewis and Howard Hotson: Reassembling the Republic of Letters - A Linked Data Approach. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 3rd Conference (DHN 2018), pp. 76-88, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, vol. 2084, Helsinki, Finland, March, 2018. bib pdf link
Between 1500 and 1800, a revolution in postal communication allowed ordinary men and women to scatter letters across and beyond Europe. This exchange helped knit together what contemporaries called the respublica litteraria, Republic of Letters, a knowledge-based civil society, crucial to that era’s intellectual breakthroughs, and formative of many modern European values and institutions. To enable effective Digital Humanities research on the epistolary data distributed in different countries and collections, metadata about the letters have been aggregated, harmonised, and provided for the research community through the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) service. This paper discusses the idea and benefits of using Linked Data as a basis for the next digital framework of EMLO, and presents experiences of a first demonstrational implementation of such a system.

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
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