Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Taipei International Book Exhibition has canceled its physical exhibition. Academia Sinica is converting its physical booth into an online exhibit by launching the "Advancing Knowledge! Academia Sinica" website on January 26, which will gather Academia Sinica's precious collections, publications, digital platforms, and databases to allow the public to set out on an online journey of research to explore the future and witness the production and evolution of knowledge in the digital era.
According to President James C. Liao, not only should Academia Sinica act as a pioneer in exploring new knowledge, but it should also enable the public to more directly understand the pursuit of knowledge wherever possible. Recognizing that "the methods of knowledge production and sharing are always in the process of evolving," President Liao hopes that in addition to intellectual study, Academia Sinica will "take the publication of first-rate Chinese language authors as its objective, emphasize exploration of the greater possibilities of digital publication, and use the dual approach of physical and online publication to diversely showcase academic research."
From bookshelf to cloud, human civilizations that relied on oral tradition and written texts are now crossing into a digital era. The "Advancing Knowledge!" exhibit is divided into four sections – Evolution of Knowledge Production, Scholar Talks, Exhibition Catalog, and Digital Reading – dealing with different stages in the knowledge creation process. The exhibit focuses on the modern shift to digital media, and how Academia Sinica has compiled data from different times and cultures, synthesizing and analyzing large quantities of texts and images to expand the frontiers of humanities research.
From oral traditions to carvings, wooden slips, manuscripts, woodblock printing, moveable type, and now, digital publication, the "Evolution of Knowledge Production" section presents different stages of evolution in the production and dissemination of knowledge. It showcases images from Academia Sinica's many precious artifact collections, enabling the public to glimpse the rich cultural content of the museum holdings.
The "Scholar Talks" section utilizes a collage of quotes and images to convey the experiences of 24 major scholars from Academia Sinica, illustrating their ideas and passion towards the pursuit of knowledge within their respective fields of specialty.
As one of the promoters organizing this year's book fair, Vice President Huang Chin-shing notes that Academia Sinica has led the construction of Taiwan's digital archives since the 1980s, progressively integrating academic research and digital technology, thereby advancing digital humanities' significance and technology. Thus, the "Digital Reading" section presents 9 of Academia Sinica's representative digital platforms and databases, providing an online experience combining old and new ways of scholarship.
One of these platforms is the Reflections on COVID-19 Culture website, launched today. It presents aspects of research conducted by Academia Sinica beyond coronavirus testing and vaccine development. As the pandemic is currently a topic of great public concern, the Institute of Modern History's Distinguished Research Fellow Paul R. Katz called for the creation of a website that meets this concern, gathering the work of 18 humanities and social science scholars, re-examines the many changes brought about by the pandemic, and attempts to utilize historical research to seek various ways of handling the situation. A corresponding Reflections on COVID-19 Culture book (tentative title) will be published this summer, compiling science articles aimed at allowing readers to better understand the lessons of past epidemics, the challenges for Taiwan, and global impacts. On January 26, Dr. Katz will share the origins and development of the project through a livestream on the Academia Sinica Center for Digital Cultures (ASCDC) Facebook page.
Other showcased platforms include the Wooden Slips Character Dictionary – Database of Juyan Han Wooden Slips from the Institute of History and Philology Collections, jointly developed by the Academia Sinica Center for Digital Cultures (ASCDC) and the Institute of History and Philology. It combines the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), Linked Open Data (LOD), and object recognition technology to develop functions for image magnification, image comparison, character image search, wooden slip image annotation, etc., meeting the scholarly need for character recognition of wooden slips. It is connected to the Multi-database Search System for Historical Chinese Characters co-founded with the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, which enables users to access character images through one cross-institutional international platform. The Mapping the Structure of Feelings About Illnesses website extracts illness narratives from Wei, Jin, Southern, and Northern dynasty fiction and Buddhist monk biographies, interprets the structure of human interactions and emotions within them, and utilizes chart and map visualizations to provide readers with new readings and examinations into the subject.
The "Advancing Knowledge" special exhibit offers for purchase a catalog of over 800 books published by Academia Sinica's institutes, including the fields of history, Taiwan studies, literature, philosophy, and social sciences. It specially selects 49 titles published in the past 2 years to serve as the catalog's centerpiece, allowing Taiwanese and international visitors to feast their eyes on Academia Sinica's finest scholarship.
In addition, to bring focus to Academia Sinica's recent important publications, the exhibit website will hold 5 scintillating livestream talks, inviting scholars to discuss new academic knowledge in their respective fields. Chung Shu-ming (Associate Research Fellow and Deputy Director, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica) spent years of toil delving into archives to compile his book, Taiwanese in Nanyo during the Japanese Colonial Period. He will share with readers the overseas experiences and legacy of Taiwanese people in the past. Shieh Gwo-shyong (Research Fellow and Director, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica) will expound on the special history of different labor groups in Taiwan, from his book, All Walks of Life: When Workers of Kaohsiung City Encounter Commodity Fetishism. Ning Jennifer Chang (Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica) studied the entry of the Western sports of horse racing, dog racing, and jai alai into Shanghai, and analyzed the many changes that took place in the process of cultural transmission. Chen Hsi-yuan (Research Fellow, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica), editor of The Grand Imperial Celebrations, will illuminate for readers the secrets concealed within a picture of a banquet at the Forbidden City's Hall of Supreme Harmony, as well as illustrate the rules of etiquette and practical workings behind the imperial banquet. This year coincides with the 15th anniversary of the founding of Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center. Chiu Chih-yu (Research Fellow, Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica), chief editor of the popular science book Adventures in the Biodiversity Wonderland, will personally guide readers in appreciating the diversity and wonder of Taiwan’s living creatures.
To encourage and promote the spread of knowledge, exhibit book purchases made through the Wunan Books, Eslite Bookstore or Kingstone Books websites during the exhibition period (January 22 – March 21) will enjoy a 21% discount. Book purchases totaling over NT500 dollars can receive a complimentary stone tiger book holder and aromatic bookmarks (limited quantity of 250).
[Download link for Press Release electronic file, attachments, promotional video, and images]