By Piong Tsuey-yin
Photo credit: Wang Hsiang-an
Wang Hsiang-an, IT director of ASCDC, presents Digital Humanities Platform, which will be available in October 2018. (Photo provided by: Liao Hsiung-ming)Dr Chen Shu-jium, Executive Secretary of ASCDC, relates semantic web and interoperability standards to digital humanities.Dr Liu Cheng-yun, Research Fellow at the Institute of History and Philology, recounts the construction of the Scripta Sinica Database in a panel meeting.Dr Liu Cheng-yun, Prof Bol and Dr Donald Sturgeon jointly moderate a seminar.The assembly of scholars, librarians and IT experts from the US, Europe, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.Dr Chen listening to a presentation of hyperspectral imaging processor on her visit to the Conservation Center of Shanghai Museum.
The delegation of the Academic Sinica Center for Digital Cultures (ASCDC) presented its newly developed Digital Humanities Research Platform before an illustrious audience at the International Conference on the Cyberinfrastructure for Historical China Studies held by Harvard University in Shanghai from March 14 to 16, 2018. One of the delegation's presentations featured how Linked Open Data and International Image Interoperability Framework can be applied to the R&D of tools that facilitate the research of digital humanities.
With the advent and burgeoning of what comes to be known as digital humanities, the way in which information science and digital technology shape modern scholarship is gaining currency. One needs look no further than the international trend in the construction of database and online platforms: it has evolved from an online textual search engine to a multi-tasking service that combines computational processing, data visualization and other analytical functions. Notable examples include CText and CBETA – what ASCDC puts forward is intended to be part of the undertaking.
The inception and development of Digital Humanities Research platform have taken up two years of work. Compared with other research platform dedicated to China studies, its uniqueness lies in the open access to data and the support for collaboration among multiple editors. Wang Hsiang-an, the ASCDC's IT director, presented this platform at a meeting highlighting research tools and platforms. According to his presentation, this platform not only provides a space for research to upload texts and authority files but also connects internal data to external data outside the framework of the platform, and there is a variety of tools available alongside: text annotation, term frequency analysis, text similarity comparison, association analysis, spatial-temporal presentation and data visualization. The array of tools encourages the discovery of new approaches to materials by empowering data mining.
The main purpose of ASCDC's Digital Humanities Research Platform is to create an international academic community through open access and collaboration. This runs in concert with the general agreement that everyone will benefit if better ways of sharing information, search across databases and making use of each other's tools are secured. The conference occasioned the debut of this platform, which has incited sanguine expectation, while it is currently undergoing internal examinations and will be available in October, 2018.
The conference itself is a fresh initiative as well. The organizer of the conference, Prof Peter K. Bol, a renowned sinologist and Vice Provost aof Harvard University, sees the need of pulling together multiple resources in support of a sustainable cyberinfrastructure, which can only be made possible by experts of the same field from all over the world. The nationality of scholars, librarians and IT specialists encompasses the US, Europe, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They made their way to Shanghai to touch base on how to tackle with the challenge of enhancing the inter-compatibility of databases and the interoperability of databases.
The conference saw 142 presentations in China studies and cyberinfrastructure through 54 panel meetings, 1 general discussion and 4 seminars. Dr Chen Shu-jiun, Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of History and Philology and Executive Secretary of ASCDC, moderated a seminar on "The Role of Standards" and her talk touched on the application of Linked Open Data (LOD) and International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) to the R&D of tools that facilitate digital humanities research.
The international community of China studies is working toward effectuating an "interoperable" cyberinfrastructure, and "standard" is key to this enterprise. LOD is the current standard format of semantic data modeling around the world; IIIF facilitates the exchange of images and annotations between systems that adopt the same standard. ASCDC has been converting the digital archives of Taiwan for five years, so far covering eight datasets about wildlife, multimedia, fine arts, religions and anthropology.
She demonstrated how to design a semantic data structure based on applying the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CIDOC CRM) to allow for the interconnection of different databases that all feature Buddhist cave art. She indicated that the query system of SPARQL overshadows traditional query systems by being more flexible and apt to presenting nuances: it is capable of detecting the distribution of a selected iconography in physical space.
As for the significance of IIIF, as Dr Chen points out, ASCDC has now developed a viewer conforming to the IIIF standard, enabling the user to view, annotate and compare high-resolution, zoomable images. It is also possible that images containing the same object viewed from different angles can be collected in the same dataset. What is noteworthy is that SPARQL enables the viewer to compare the detail of multiple images through Uniform Resource Identifier, and researchers may exchange visual materials fulfilling the IIIF standard with one and another.
Dr Liu Cheng-yun, Research Fellow at the Institute of History and Philology, was member of the delegation and moderated a seminar titled "Texts and Galleries through a New Perspective," in which he presented the Scripta Sinica Database and Name Authority Database constructed by Academia Sinica.
Beside attending the conference, the delegation has also visited the conservation center and IT Department of Shanghai Museum, and the Internet Center of Shanghai Library.