Seminar series: Digital Humanities and Materiality

This seminar is organized by Gabriel Bodard and Rada Varga and co-hosted by the Digital Humanities Research Hub, University of London, UK, and Star-UBB Institute of Advanced Studies, University Babeș-Bolyai, Cluj Napoca, Romania, from autumn 2021–spring 2022. All sessions are online and free to attend, but booking is essential (see below).

The series will present a range of discussions around material culture and the research possibilities offered by digital methods and approaches. More than just the value of digitization and computational research to the study of material culture, we are especially interested in theoretical and digital approaches to the question of materiality itself. We do not restrict ourselves to any period of history or academic discipline, but rather encourage interdisciplinarity and collaborative work, and the valuable exchange of ideas enabled by cross-pollination of languages, areas of history, geography and cultures.

Autumn 2021:

  • Tuesday October 19, 2021, 16:00 BST:
    Andrew Reinhard (New York University), Mapping the Unmappable: GIS, Material Culture, and the Archaeology of Human-Digital Spaces (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021, 16:00 GMT:
    Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland), Bitstreams: The Future of Digital Literary Heritage (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021, 16:00 GMT:
    Voica Pușcașiu (Cluj-Napoca), Mapping political discourse and inequalities in present-day Romania through public monuments (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday November 30, 2021, 16:00 GMT:
    Paula Granados García (British Museum), Digital approaches to documenting material knowledge: implications and concerns (BOOK HERE)

Spring 2022:

  • Tuesday 25 January, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Dan Deac (Cluj Napoca), Letters through the Lenses: Using Digital Tools to Reveal Ancient Textual Materiality
  • Tuesday 8 February, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Chiara Palladino (Furman University), One landscape, different paths. Rediscussing digital approaches to premodern geographical knowledge
  • Tuesday 22 February, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Christian Prager (Bonn) and Hubert Mara (Mainz), Automatic Recognition of Maya Hieroglyphs in 3D
  • Tuesday 8 March, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Piraye Hacıgüzeller (Antwerp), Archaeology, materiality and geo-space half a century after the ‘spatial turn’
  • Tuesday 22 March 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Elysia Greenway (Liverpool John Moores University), Human Faces: Reconstruction, Reimagination and Representation in a Digital Landscape
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How to promote your book in ancient Rome: A beginner’s social network analysis

written by Artemis Archontogeorgi, postdoctoral researcher, Democritus University of Thrace

The pandemic underscored the need for the use of technology by reforming a new virtual reality in education as well as in academic studies. Aware of this need, and having been a classicist for over twenty years, I decided to dive into the uncharted and, to me, in some ways mysterious waters of digital humanities. Although I wanted to improve my skills and bring new techniques and methods to both my teaching and my academic research, my IT colleagues discouraged me by claiming that this would be a very difficult task. Nonetheless, with great hesitation I joined the open course “Introduction to Digital Humanities” organized by the Institute of Advanced Studies and Technology at Star UBB under the guidance of Dr. Rada Varga in March 2021. The course, which was held online and lasted about a month, covered almost everything a novice like me should learn about digital humanities and exceeded my expectations. Dr. Rada Varga guided us with inspiration and patience through the six modules of the course, which included data structuring, database building, text encoding, data visualization, geographical annotation and georeferencing, and social network analysis. At the end of the course, we had to present a project applying what we had learned.

Since I was not working on anything related to the content of the course at the time, I was anxious about what my final project could be. While searching for ideas, I came across Tom Standage’s article Share it like Cicero: How Roman Authors Used Social Networking. The article explained how Roman authors used their social network to promote their books, in a time when there were no printing presses and official publishers. Roman authors had to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations and social distribution of their works through their networks of friends and acquaintances. Therefore, it was very important for the promotion of the book to choose the right person to whom the book was dedicated. It had to be someone who was famous, influential and had a large library, but also vain enough to mention the book to his friends, scholars and philosophers.

Following the very interesting remarks of Tom Standage, I decided to present a social network analysis project that depicts the poets of the Augustan era and the people they either dedicated their books to or mentioned in their books. For my visualization, I used Gephi, an open source network analysis and visualization software, to create a directed graph with weight ranges from 1 to 5 according to the status of the target person. I added attributes indicating gender or relatedness when mentioning poetry, patronage, authority, friendship, and kinship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we can see in Figure 1 above, a network of five communities forms around Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, and Tibullus, who are the most important poets of the Augustan period. The graph gives an overview of the Augustan poetic community which includes lesser poets such as Domitius Marsus, as well as Lygdamus and Sulpicia, whose works are included in Tibullus’ third book of elegies. It also highlights the relationships between them. For example, Domitius Marsus mentions both Virgil and Tibullus in homage to their deaths, while Virgil and Ovid refer to Cornellius Gallus, a poet of high repute who is thought to be the inventor of the Roman love elegy. A very interesting case is Julius Florus an addressee of Horace, and a poet about whom we know very little, but who seems to belong to the circle of the Emperor Tiberius. Propertius also mentions two poets, Vassus and Ponticus, who belong to the circle of Gaius Maecenas. These brief observations reveal a community that respects its predecessors and acknowledges their influence, but is also very interested in political power.

The reference to persons of political power is very clear in Figures 2 and 3, where the Emperor Gaius Octavius Augustus is mentioned by Horace, Virgil, Propertius, and Ovid, together with the two patrons of literature, Gaius Maecenas and Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus. The favor of the emperor and the patronage of a wealthy and respected Roman citizen was very important in promoting a poetic career. For this reason all the poets dedicated a portion of their works to one of the two patrons, with the exception of Virgil, who mentions both Gaius Maecenas and Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, though he seems to belong to the literary circle of Maecenas. It is also noteworthy that Ovid is not directly associated with either patron, but only with Emperor Augustus. Perhaps Ovid does not feel obliged to pay tribute to Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, although the poet is under his patronage, but only to the emperor himself.

It is no coincidence that all the poets address male citizens and only three women are mentioned (Figure 4). Besides Sulpicia, a poetess and also Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus’ niece, Ovid gives literary advice to Perilla, a young poetess, while Propertius addresses Galla, who is probably his relative. In Rome’s patriarchal society, women have less authority than men and therefore play a secondary role in promoting literature or a young poet’s career. Although the female presence in Augustan poetry occupies a large proportion, most of the women mentioned are fictional characters or they are referred to by pseudonyms to protect their reputation.

The graph in Figure 5 shows the number of dedications and references for each poet, with Ovid and Propertius at the top. It is remarkable that most of Ovid’s references belong to his poetry from exile, emphasizing the poet’s desperate efforts to seek help to return to Rome. Thus he addresses the publisher Brutus, the powerful Paullus Fabius Maximus, who is a confidant of the Emperor Augustus, and the two sons of Messala, Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus and Aurelius Cotta Maximus Messallinus. He also invokes Cassius Salanus, the tutor of Germanicus Julius Caesar. Ovid hopes that through these very influential men his poetry will still be famous and popular in Rome even when he is not there. On the other hand, Propertius’ references to his friends, such as Tullus, show the importance of friendship in the poet’s life as well as in his poetry. Finally, in the obituaries of Paetus and Marcellus, Propertius uses a motif from Hellenistic poetry, namely the separation from a close relative.

This project was not intended to be an in-depth research on the social network of Augustan poets, but rather a novice’s exercise in social network analysis. Nonetheless, even simple ideas or things we think we know, when visualized, can be seen from a different angle, serve an educational function, and provide inspiration for further study. And certainly, this little project proves that it’s not that hard to teach an old dog new manners!

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Introduction To Markup For Epigraphers

This article is archived from a chapter of the EpiDoc Guidelines written by Julia Flanders and Charlotte Roueché in 2006; later lightly revised by Gabriel Bodard and Tom Elliott.


Introduction To Markup For Epigraphers

EpiDoc logoJulia Flanders & Charlotte Roueché, 2006 (2021)

The concepts behind EpiDoc bring together, for epigraphers, traditional and entirely modern editorial methods and conventions.

Epigraphic conventions

Over the last century, epigraphers have wrestled with the issues involved in representing non-verbal information within their written texts. Until the end of the 19th century publishers could be expected to produce a facsimile of the text, but this became decreasingly common, and publishers did not demonstrate a parallel willingness to provide a full photographic record of every text. The conventions which have been painfully developed to indicate missing text, abbreviations, etc. have been more or less generally agreed since the 1930s and overlap, to some extent, with those used in papyrology and palaeography. All epigraphers have had to deal with the issues involved in moving this to an electronic environment—for example, finding a font which will permit underdotting; but most of us have now adjusted to these new constraints.

The difficulty of rendering such conventions and, in particular, Greek characters in consistent fonts and on the Web has tended to delay the publication of full epigraphic texts online; instead, enormously rich search collections have been created, most notably:

See also: Conformance (EpiDoc Compatibility).

All these developments have therefore been determined by the state of the existing technologies, as these have evolved over the 20th century. The object of EpiDoc is to exploit new and rich technologies for the traditional purposes of epigraphy. Many of the processes described above have involved struggling against the technological standards—for example, in print publications—in order to accommodate as many of our requirements as possible. Over the period it has become steadily more difficult to persuade conventional publishers to meet our requirements for inserting meta-textual information, unless at prohibitive expense. At the same time, the expectations as to the volume of information which should accompany a text have risen greatly; as well as information about physical circumstances, photographic illustration has become standard.

In the last 15 years scholars generally have been dealing with similar requirements to incorporate metadata within texts in their electronic form, and tools have emerged which make this increasingly easy and make the results increasingly valuable. The word-processing software that has been familiar since the 1980s allows us to control the formatting of our texts, using markup which by now is invisibly embedded by the software. The more demanding requirements of large-scale document collections—legal papers, industrial documentation, commercial publishing—led in the 1980s to the investigation of ways to insert a wider range of information and instructions within electronic texts. At first the emphasis was on inserting formatting instructions, but there soon emerged methods of including more complex semantic information concerning document structure and even content. A simple example is marking up a book title as a title, rather than simply marking it as being italicized. The use of this more abstract markup permits a separation of structure and presentation, where structure is comparatively fundamental to the document’s genre, while presentation may be varied depending on the form of publication. In a way, this shift represents a return to an earlier mode in which authors dealt with the substance of the text and all details of presentation were handled in the publishing process—a distinction which has been lost in the days of camera-ready copy.

The protocols which emerged from this latter effort were standardized in the late 1980s as the Standard Generalized Markup Language, and more recently were given a simpler and more flexible form for use in the world-wide web as XML: the Extensible Markup Language. XML is now widely used by scholars in a broad range of humanistic disciplines to capture/represent and preserve research materials for a wide range of purposes.

The attractions of XML for epigraphers are therefore considerable. For example: missing material can be marked up as such, and then presented within square brackets; at the same time, a search can be instructed only to interrogate text which has not been marked up as missing (so only definitely attested terms). Uncertain letters can be marked up as such, and a decision made later as to whether to render them with an underdot or in another way. Words can be lemmatised during editing, to create indices which grow as the collection grows. What is important, however, at this juncture is to repeat the ‘Leyden’ exercise; that is, to agree on electronic equivalents of the various sigla that we use. Firstly, this is valuable simply in order to save time and trouble; but also consistency—without imposing uniformity—continues to be valuable. Not only does it support the user, as on the printed page; but documents edited in this way and published electronically will then be exploitable together, even if they have been prepared separately.

The need for agreed standards is not limited to epigraphy. Since 1987 an international consortium of scholars principally in the humanities has been working together to develop and refine a set of guidelines for describing the structure and content of documents. The results of this endeavour have produced an encoding language, realized in XML and described by the name of the group—TEI, the Text Encoding Initiatve.

TEI for Epigraphers: What is it, why use it?

The Text Encoding Initiative is a research effort aimed at defining an encoding language that encompasses the needs of humanities scholars very generally. There are two essential goals motivating the development of the TEI. The first is to enable scholars to represent their research materials in digital form using a descriptive language that mirrors the kinds of analytical terms and concepts that are familiar and essential to humanistic scholarship. The second goal is to enable scholars to share the resulting materials intelligibly, by using a common descriptive language.

We can think of the TEI encoding language as resembling a human language: a core of shared terms at the center, surrounded by less widely shared vocabularies including local usage, specialized terminology, and other variations. At the core of the TEI are the common terms and concepts that are broadly shared by scholars in most disciplines: features like paragraphs, generic textual divisions, headings, lists, and so forth. More specialized elements are grouped together according to their applications: for instance, elements for detailed encoding of names, elements for representing features of manuscripts, elements for capturing the structure of dictionaries, and so forth. The TEI is intentionally organized into modules in this way, so that scholars working in specific disciplinary areas may use only the modules relevant to their work, and omit the others. The TEI can thus achieve a great deal of breadth without burdening individual scholars and projects with the necessity of mastering a very large domain, much of which is only relevant to other disciplines. On the contrary, the TEI encoding language can be very directly targeted at a specific domain or task, and can be limited to what is essential to the individual project’s work.

Like a human language, TEI can be used in a way that draws on a rich and nuanced vocabulary, with detailed encoding that describes a great many textual phenomena, but it can also be used very simply, using only a few essential concepts that describe only the most basic textual facts: sections, headings, paragraphs. The more detailed the encoding, the more one can do with it, but factors such as time, cost, available staff, and local expertise may place constraints on the level of detail that is feasible.

In addition to providing an encoding system that scholars can use in its original state, the TEI also provides a way for scholarly projects to define custom versions of the TEI language which include modifications that are necessary to support specific local needs. Because these custom versions operate within the overall TEI framework, they can use its broadly shared core of terms and concepts, thereby avoiding unnecessary work in reinventing these. And because the TEI provides a common framework for creating and describing customizations, these can be shared easily and meaningfully. As a result, groups of scholars in particular disciplines can articulate the specific goals and methods which characterize their work, and the differences which distinguish them from others working in related fields. Instead of mutually unintelligible approaches, different projects can produce results whose differences result from real disagreements rather than simple random divergence.

The EpiDoc Customization: TEI for Epigraphers

Within this framework, the EpiDoc community has been working, since 2000, to develop a custom version of the TEI Guidelines to support the particular needs of epigraphers. The idea was launched by Tom Elliott, an ancient historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the aim is both to make the fullest possible use of the work that has already been done, and also to ensure that texts which happen to be inscribed are handled in a manner consistent with that used for other texts, and not distanced from them. The EpiDoc customization removes irrelevant elements from the main body of the TEI, and it adds provisions for the specific kinds of transcription, analysis, description, and classification that are essential for epigraphic work. The result is a simple yet powerful language which can be used to mark all of the significant features of inscriptions and also represent the accompanying information about the epigraphic object itself.

To accompany the EpiDoc encoding language, the EpiDoc community has also produced a set of encoding guidelines and software tools, as well as documentation which describes how to use the encoding language, the tools, and the other elements of the EpiDoc method. The goal is to establish a framework that is easy to learn and use, even for scholars with no technical background or support. This may sound improbable, but the enterprise is of the same order as learning to mark up a standard epigraphic text, with the existing series of sigla.

The group has worked to develop expressions for all the agreed epigraphic conventions. They have expanded this guidance to address the various fields which may be presented in an epigraphic publication, including:

See further: Document Structure.

Further areas under active exploration include developing interoperability. A software tool for converting texts in normal epigraphic markup into EpiDoc XML has already been developed (the so-called Chapel Hill Electronic Text Converter (CHETC)). Other areas involve the use of authoritative lexica. For example, the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias project is working closely with the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, to ensure full coverage and consistent usage.

The work, led by Dr. Elliott, has been undertaken by various individual scholars working in close collaboration, and in regular contact with the wider profession. They have drawn on the experience of an established EpiDoc project, the Vindolanda Tablets on line, and two current projects: the US Epigraphy Project (USEP) (supported by Brown, Princeton and Rutgers Universities), and the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias Project (InsAph) (supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council). The generous support of the AHRC allowed for the intensive workshop in March 2006 where these guidelines were refined.

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Divine networks: a novice’s comparison of Hesiod’s Theogony and the Babylonian Enuma Eliš

written by Valquirya Borba, graduate student, University of Oxford

In March 2021, during the coronavirus pandemic, I signed up to take part in an introductory digital humanities course, convened by Dr. Rada Varga (UBB), and held online. During this course, I learnt how to build and visualise networks using Gephi, an open-source network analysis and visualisation software. Over this same period, I was also finishing a research masters degree in philosophy, thinking about two texts in particular, Hesiod’s Theogony and the Babylonian Enuma Eliš. These are two cosmogonical texts, which tell a broadly similar story about how the patron god of their respective places of origin (Greece and Babylonia) came to be kings of the gods. The similarities between these two texts have been studied since the mid-20th century. For my final project on the digital humanities course, I decided to build databases of the characters and their relationships, and plot the networks of these two texts, in order to explore a different approach to this comparison.

Both the Theogony and the Enuma Eliš detail a genealogy of their gods. In any genealogy, two kinds of relationships are particularly important: parent-child relationships, and the relationships between sexual partners. When we start to think about this, one major difference between the two texts becomes immediately obvious: the Enuma Eliš network is much smaller than the Theogony network. The former has 21 characters, whereas the Theogony has 144. Why these texts differ in this way is an interesting question. We might think that this reveals different authorial intentions. Hesiod’s Theogony is clearly meant to be an exhaustive treatment of the Greek pantheon, whereas the Enuma Eliš is clearly focused on one particular story; Marduk’s ascent to the throne.

The network in Fig. 1 (above) highlights the characters in the Theogony that have the most children. In this respect, Gaia, is the most important character in the text, without whom the network of the Theogony would be vastly diminished. The second most important character is her son and partner Ouranos, the first god-king. (I leave for the reader to ponder the significance of the disconnection of Night and Eris from the main network.) Compare here Fig. 2, which highlights the fact that Tiamat, who plays a role that is, in some ways, analogous to Gaia in the Theogony, is also the largest node in her network, seeing as she has the most children. But this is not because Tiamat is as important to the story as Gaia, for most of Tiamat’s children are monsters, who feature only in the battle between Tiamat and Marduk, and whilst it is true that Marduk must win this battle in order to be worthy of being crowned king of the gods, these monster characters are not important as individuals, and contribute next to nothing to the plot. So whilst Tiamat is an important character, in the sense that she is the original mother of the gods, she is not any more important than her partner, the original father of the gods, Apsu. This is a crucial piece of context that helps us to understand that, whilst the networks of the Theogony and the Enuma Eliš might look similar in some respects, there are important differences underlying these apparent similarities.

Another striking aspect of the network in Fig. 2 (above) is that Marduk is as small a node as Tiamat’s monsters (and Apsu’s vizier, Mummu). This is striking because this text is, after all, an exaltation of Marduk, king of the gods, god of Babylonia, creator of the world, but it tells us nothing about his children. The Theogony, on the other hand, details Zeus’ many wives and children, which one might reasonably think is a testament to his power and influence. This highlights a further difference between our two texts: sexual reproduction, and the having of children, is not as significant to the Enuma Eliš as it is to the Theogony. We might conjecture that this is because the whole cosmos of the Theogony develops organically via sexual reproduction, whereas the cosmos of the Enuma Eliš is a product of creation and design. In the Theogony, for instance, the rivers are deities, born from the sexual union of other gods, but in the Enuma Eliš, these are designed and created by Marduk after he defeats Tiamat and her monsters in battle. This hints at a significant difference between our two protagonists: Zeus’ power comes from his centrality in the network, whereas Marduk’s power comes not from his function in the network, but from his role as creator of the world.

This is even clearer when we look at Figs. 3, 4 and 5. The network in Fig. 3 (above) shows Zeus is the most central member of the network of the Theogony; again, this is where his power and influence lies.

The network in Fig. 4 (above) shows that Zeus has, by far, the most number of romantic/sexual relationships in the Theogony; again, this underpins his power and influence.

On the other hand, Marduk is the smallest node in the network in Fig. 5 (above), as he lies at the very edge of the network of the Enuma Eliš, connecting no nodes. It is also interesting that Anu is the biggest node in this network. Anu is the father of Ea, the second king of the gods in this narrative, suggesting that his power and influence comes from his centrality, like Zeus. Further to this, we need not even plot a network of the romantic/sexual relationships of the Enuma Eliš to see that Marduk would be entirely disconnected, for he has no romantic/sexual relationships narrated in that text. This underlines an important difference between these two, otherwise similar texts: Zeus’ power and influence can easily be explained by his centrality and his connections to other members of the network of the Theogony, but Marduk’s power and influence is more elusive, whilst he is the protagonist of the Enuma Eliš, king of the gods, he is a largely insignificant member of the network when it comes to parent-child relationships, and romantic/sexual relationships. Whilst Zeus and Marduk play similar narrative roles in their respective texts, they play very different roles in their respective social networks. I will, again, leave the reader to ponder what this difference might entail.

This short post gives a flavour of the kinds of insights I was able to achieve through a comparative network analysis of these two ancient texts during the UBB digital humanities course. That a novice digital humanist like me can already learn so much about these texts from a comparative network analysis is reason enough to pursue this work further; there is much else, I suspect, that we might discover about these two texts with further statistical calculations and visualisations.

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Digital World Classics: virtual programme

As we were thinking about the Digital Classicist London seminar series on the theme of World Classics, which starts in a couple weeks and runs over the summer, with a few occasional events over the rest of the 2021–22 academic year, we have been discussing coverage and inclusivity. The programme the organisers have put together is very exciting and I look forward to all of the seminars, but it can not be said to cover “the world.” The programme includes papers covering Arabic, Egyptology/Coptic, Ethiopic, Ancient Italic, Jewish/Hebrew, Maya, South/Southeast Asian and Syriac; and presenters at (or from) Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Syria and the USA.

I’m very keen to see this as the start of a conversation, not the end of a focus on “world classics” in the Digital Classicist seminar. That said, this is not the beginning of the story either: although many of the papers we have featured over the last fifteen years of the London seminar (and many many more in Berlin, Leipzig, New England) have been on Greco-Roman classics and archaeology, we have also welcomed “classics” from other ancient cultures.

I would like to offer here a “virtual programme” of digital world classics seminars from the past 6 years (as long as we have been streaming to YouTube). I’m not including here any seminars from Berlin’s YouTube channel, although we could add them if someone wants to help compile a list. If you haven’t watched them before, please feel welcome to follow this virtual, asynchronous seminar programme!

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On teaching a new asynchronous Digital Humanities open course

On-line teaching and learning has already become an integrated part of our professional lives, but we are still experimenting with methods and try to find the best way to accommodate both teachers’ and students’ needs.
In this quest, this spring semester, a digital humanities open course was organized at the Babeș-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca (Romania). Fully on-line and taught in English, the course was delivered by Rada Varga and addressed all humanists who wanted to take their first steps into the world of DH, thus developing computational thinking and increasing computer literacy – two sets of skills which become more paramount by the day.
The course was taught asynchronously, with registered lectures and tutorials for each topic; their approximate duration was of 1 hour, generally fragmented in 2-3 parts. The sessions implied individual exercises, team exercises, as well as discussions and individual and group feedback. The participants were encouraged to use their own datasets, so that the results are both familiar and relevant, but in case of need they have been provided with sample spreadsheets. Regarding the employed software, we used open access programs and platforms.
The topics were imagined as following the logics of a normal scientific research, but also progressively increasing as difficulty level on the technical side implied by the used digital tools.

In order to make this presentation comprehensive, here is the course overview (also available http://starubb.institute.ubbcluj.ro/en/open-course-introduction-to-digital-humanities-2/):
Data structuring: focusing on structuring any kind of data (but especially narrative) into a tabular form, as well as on interrogating and identifying the information within structured datasets (spreadsheets, tables). The most accessible data structuring formats were presented (Excel, .csv).
Database building: focusing on the basics of database building. Besides the technical component, it encompassed a methodological side, as the filtering has to answer coherent research questions
Text encoding: teaching the main text encoding norms and TEI standards. Basic encoding and annotation principles were introduced, as well as essential XML.
Visualization: providing a critical analysis of the role of visualization in humanities and social sciences and as an introduction into the most employed visualizing platforms: Tableau Public, Raw Graphs.
Geographical annotations and georeferencing: familiarizing the participants with the most common systems of geographic annotation and visualization – Google MyMaps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), with QGIS, the associated platform.
Data analyses (social network analyses): demonstrating how one can achieve scientific insights using their structured data and the platforms presented before. For focusing on network analyses, we showcased both Nodegoat and Gephi.
Project presentation: The final project was a very important phase in the general economy of the course, as it marked the passing from strictly learning notions to using them for research purposes and assessing the freshly gained DH knowledge.

This year the course was undertaken by 18 participants and the results of their work and the progresses they made were remarkable. As formation, they were linguists, philosophers, historians, and artists, ranging from a few MA students to senior researchers. The mixture was a positive factor, as it made input more diverse.
Upon completion of the course, participants presented a small project, using the digital skills acquired throughout the module. Given that each topic was almost a stand-alone, appealing differently to each participant, according to background and research interests (e.g., philologists will be more interested in text encoding, while historians will find GIS and SNA more suited for their researches), we considered that it was fair to evaluate based on a project of each participant’s choosing, where they could show effectively how the methodologies and tools presented can be applied in order to increase the value of a given research, or to create a new, useful tool.

Five of the final projects were situated in the realm of digital classics and archaeology and they were remarkable in the diversity of topics tackled, as well as tools and methods employed. Thus, one project presented an Airtable database registering all inscriptions from an archaeological site in Asia Minor, proving very graphically the necessity of systemizing, cleansing and inter-linking data; the advantages of the tool used were also visible, as the owner would be able to use it in the future collaboratively, with different clearance levels for colleagues and students in training. Two projects focused on geographic annotations in QGIS and ArcGIS, creating a map layer or only personalizing existing maps. One project in particular combined the possibilities offered by visualizing on a map different types of discovered pottery and presenting in parallel the statistical overview. Two other projects were more in the classics sphere and both employed SNA: one focused on visualizing and analysing the gods’ networks from Hesiod’s Theogonia and the other immersed into the networks of the main Augustan poets and their patrons. All these projects, though, of course, incipient, had very good, solid and promising results, underlining the utility of digital tools in classics and the gains of interdisciplinary research.

All in all, the course was a very useful and pleasurable experience, with extremely positive feedback and proof that, at least in DH, online teaching has its merits and benefits.

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Digital Classicist London seminar 2021

The 2021 season of the Digital Classicist London seminar is on the theme of world classics: we have put together a programme of speakers who are working with digital humanities and digital classics methods to the study of antiquity—whether language, corpora, archaeology—from across the world. All sessions are streamed live on Youtube, and will also be available to watch there afterwards.

All seminars at 17:00 UK time.

  • Fri, Apr 16 Christian Prager (Bonn) & Cristina Vertan (Hamburg), Machines Reading and Deciphering Maya Hieroglyphs: Towards a Digital Epigraphy of Maya Hieroglyphic Writing (Youtube)
  • Fri, May 28 Andreas Fuls (TU Berlin), Mathematical epigraphy and the Interactive Corpus of Indus Texts (ICIT) (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jun 11 Arlo Griffiths (EFEO Paris) & Dániel Balogh (HU-Berlin), Project DHARMA: Pushing South and Southeast Asian Textual Sources into the Digital World (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jun 25 Chiara Palladino (Furman) & Tariq Yousef (Leipzig), We want to learn all languages! Applications of translation alignment in digital environments (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jul 9 Heidi Jauhiainen (Helsinki), Machine-Readable Texts for Egyptologists (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jul 23 Daria Elagina (Hamburg), Modelling Vocabulary of Digital Competencies for the Project ENCODE (Youtube)
  • Fri, Aug 6 Kylie Thomsen (UCLA), The utilization of SfM and RTI to study ancient Egyptian statuary reuse (Youtube)

In addition to the summer seminars listed above, occasional seminars will run throughout the 2020-2021 year. (See full programme and updates.)

  • Fri, Sep 10, 2021 Amir Zeldes (Georgetown), Caroline Schroeder (Oklahoma), Lance Martin (CUA), Leveraging non-named entities in Coptic antiquity (Youtube)
  • Fri, Nov 12, 2021 Mariarosaria Zinzi (Florence), Languages and Cultures of Ancient Italy. Historical Linguistics and Digital Models (Youtube)
  • January 2022 (date tbd) James E. Walters (Hill Museum and Manuscript Library), Ad fontes: The Digital Syriac Corpus as a Resource for Teaching and Learning Syriac (link tba)
  • Fri, Mar 18, 2022 Ortal-Paz Saar & Berit Janssen (Utrecht), PEACE: The Portal on Jewish Funerary Culture (link tba)
  • Fri, May 27, 2022 Matei Tichindelean (UCLA), Digital Reconstruction of the Akhenaten Torso in the Brooklyn Museum (link tba)
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Sunoikisis Digital Classics, Summer 2021

SunoikisisDC 2020-2021 Wiki

The full programme of the Summer Sunoikisis Digital Classics semester is at the SunoikisisDC GitHub Wiki, including session pages and YouTube links. Reading lists, exercises, and summaries of all sessions will be added in the next weeks. The calendar is as follows (sessions are on Thursdays at 17:15–18:45 CEST time):

  1. Thu, April 15, 2021: Introduction (Monica Berti, Gabriel Bodard, and Valeria Vitale) [YouTube]
  2. Thu, April 22, 2021: Teaching Epigraphy in a Pandemic (Alice Bencivenni, Gabriel Bodard, and Irene Vagionakis) [YouTube]
  3. Thu, April 29, 2021: Digital Epigraphic Corpora. The Example of the Inscriptions from Israel and Palestine (Michael Satlow and Elli Mylonas) [YouTube]
  4. Thu, May 6, 2021: Linguistic Annotations of Greek and Latin Inscriptions (Francesca Dell’Oro) [YouTube]
  5. Thu, May 13, 2021: NO SESSION
  6. Thu, May 20, 2021: Learning and Reading ancient Greek with Pedalion (Toon van Haal and Alek Keersmaekers) [YouTube]
  7. Thu, May 27, 2021: Reading and Learning ancient Greek with Diorisis and the Scaife Viewer (James Tauber and Alessandro Vatri) [YouTube]
  8. Thu, June 3, 2021: Trismegistos People (Yanne Broux) [YouTube]
  9. Thu, June 10, 2021: Named Entity Recognition and Prosopography (Monica Berti and Gabriel Bodard) [YouTube]
  10. Thu, June 17, 2021: Annotating Geographical Data with Recogito (Elton Barker, Monica Berti, and Valeria Vitale) [YouTube]
  11. Thu, June 24, 2021: Data Citation for Historical Texts and the Cited Loci Project (Matteo Romanello) [YouTube]
  12. Thu, July 1, 2021: The Digital Latin Library (Samuel J. Huskey) [YouTube]
  13. Thu, July 8, 2021: eAQUA (Corina Willkommen and Jens Wittig) [YouTube]
  14. Thu, July 15, 2021: Beyond Classics: The Book of the Dead in 3D (Rita Lucarelli and Franziska Naether) [YouTube]
  15. Thu, July 22, 2021: Beyond Classics: The Turin Papyrus Online Platform (TPOP) (Susanne Töpfer and Franziska Naether) [YouTube]

This is the third semester of the 2020/2021 programme, whose description is available in a previous Stoa article posted on October 5, 2020. The Summer semester follows the German academic calendar, being based at the University of Leipzig. This is the reason why we have 14 sessions of 90 minutes each from April through July 2021.

The programme of this semester covers topics in the fields of Digital Epigraphy, Computational Linguistics, Named Entity Recognition, Geographical Annotations, Data Citation, Digital Libraries and Corpora. We also have two sessions about Digital Egyptology that are part of our efforts to extend the program beyond ancient Greek and Latin.

All sessions are freely available online, and everyone, student or not, is welcome to watch, leave comments in the live chat if you are with us live, and attempt the exercises. Contents of the SunoikisisDC Programme remain available on GitHub and YouTube indefinitely, and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you are interested in using any of the SunoikisisDC materials in your own teaching and would like to discuss any aspect of the programme, please do get in touch with any of us.

Monica Berti and Gabriel Bodard

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Collection and Promotion of Real-World LOD Resources: Report on Activity 5 for the LP6 Symposium

Paula Granados Garcia (British Museum); Sarah Middle (Open University)

Linked Pasts 6

The sixth annual Linked Pasts symposium (LP6) was held in December 2020 as an online event hosted by the University of London and the British Library. The event brings together scholars, heritage professionals and other practitioners with an interest in Linked Open Data (LOD) as applied to the study of the ancient and historical worlds. 

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the symposium had to be a fully remote and online event which despite preventing us from meeting in person, did allow a much larger number of attendees in comparison to previous years (about 500), while facilitating multiple events taking place over two weeks rather than an intense three days of in-person sessions. 

The event was designed so that prospective participants could propose different activities (including roundtables, seminars, workshops, discussion groups…) to be hosted throughout the two weeks of the conference, thereby promoting discussion among participants who decided to join one or more of the proposed activities. 

Promotion and Leverage Activity 

In this context, we decided to propose an activity focused on the collection and promotion of real-world LOD resources. Both of us had been involved with LOD resources in our respective PhD researches and had noticed how there does not seem to be an agreed mechanism for promoting and leveraging LOD projects for Ancient World research, with current strategies being rather fragmentary. This issue becomes especially concerning in the semantic web world, where the success of the approach relies on the collaboration and discoverability of the existing resources. 

We had noticed that well-known initiatives for the promotion of newly created LOD datasets include the LOD cloud and the public-lod@w3.org mailing list, although neither facilitate the process of discovering relevant datasets for Ancient World research. The topic is yet to receive sufficient attention from the linked data community, especially regarding published research or guidance on how better to promote/leverage LOD resources and initiatives.

As a result, we worked with Gabriel Bodard and Elton Barker to create a catalogue of Linked Ancient World datasets. As well as providing the dataset URIs, our spreadsheet contains information such as formats and licences, and links to relevant entries on the Digital Classicist wiki. Our current criteria for inclusion are:

  • Data can be queried or downloaded in a format generally understood as LOD (e.g. RDF, JSON, Atom)
  • Datasets are related to the Ancient World in some way

We realise this scope is quite strict, but it ensures that we can currently keep the entries to a manageable number, while providing scope to broaden our criteria in future. If you know of a dataset that you think should be included but does not yet appear in the catalogue, please provide its details via our entry form.

The aims of the sessions at LP were to:

  1. discuss the effectiveness of current strategies to raise awareness about LOD projects online;
  2. develop a tentative protocol with the most interesting solutions proposed;
  3. collate and leverage Ancient World datasets by adding to our catalogue

Main Discussions and Interviews 

After presenting our ideas to LP6 attendees, we opened a Slack channel for asynchronous communication (which is still open for comments) and held two synchronous meetings for further discussion. Participants generally agreed that the catalogue would be useful to both consumers and producers of LOD, although there were suggestions to convert the data to JSON format and to provide a more interactive interface – both of which we will consider once the catalogue moves past the ‘proof of concept’ stage.

We also spoke about current criteria for inclusion and potential expansion, with suggestions including the introduction of data categories to facilitate discoverability. Another topic for discussion was our definition of ‘Ancient World’, which we ultimately decided would be best to align with criteria for inclusion in the Digital Classicist wiki.

Feedback and Outcomes

Looking to the future, we discussed the importance of community engagement for sustainability, particularly if we expand our remit by using a broader definition of ‘Linked Data’, as well as maintaining some form of moderation for contributions. We also recognised the importance of preserving the catalogue data in a trusted repository, while ensuring that it additionally continues to be maintained as a living resource.

In addition to our specific initiative, we found it very useful to draw parallels with other activities at LP6. In particular, it was extremely valuable to participate in conversations around user needs for Wikidata alignment (with Anne Chen, Kyle Conrau-Lewis, Elton Barker and Rob Sanderson) and we are interested to hear about Adam Rabinowitz’s plans for a date/time LOD resource catalogue. Taking part in all these other sessions at LP6 enriched our own discussions and enhanced our understanding of community interests and needs.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our discussions and look forward to continuing them in future. We hope that this event doesn’t mark an end but rather the start of new conversations on how to better promote LOD projects as well as to raise interest in the catalogue and the leverage and discoverability of LOD real-world resources.

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CFP Digital Classicist London 2021

Digital Classicist London banner

Digital Classicist London invites proposals for the summer 2021 seminar, which will run online on alternate Friday afternoons through the summer, hosted by the Institute of Classical Studies. All presentations will be live-cast and archived on Youtube.

Digital Classicist understands “Classics” to refer to foundational texts and heritage of the whole world, and this year we are particularly interested in research that addresses classics outside the Greco-Roman Mediterranean. We would therefore like to see proposals that address digital, innovative and collaborative research, teaching and practice in all areas of antiquity, from philology, ancient history, cultural heritage, reception, or other perspectives.

Proposals from researchers of all levels, including students, heritage professionals, practitioners and academics, are equally welcome. To submit a paper, please email an abstract of up to 300 words as an attachment to gabriel.bodard@sas.ac.uk by Monday, March 15, 2021. (Include the words “Digital Classicist seminar” in the subject line to be sure of not being missed!)

Organizers:

  • Gabriel Bodard (School of Advanced Study, University of London)
  • Paula Granados García (British Museum)
  • Eleanor Robson (University College London)
  • Valeria Vitale (British Library)
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Call for Posters, Linked Pasts 6 (London, Dec 2–16, 2020)

We would love to hear from anyone in the Digital Classics, History or Cultural Heritage worlds who have a LOD/LAWD project or method to share, and would like to do so in a digital poster. The online poster session will also be our conference social event, to we’d love to hear from as many people as possible! Happy to chat with anyone who isn’t sure if their idea is a fit.


Call for posters, Linked Pasts Symposium, December 2–16, 2020, London (remote).

The annual Linked Pasts symposium, which has previously been held at KCL, Madrid, Stanford, Mainz and Bordeaux, brings together scholars, heritage professionals and other practitioners with an interest in Linked Open Data as applied to the study of the ancient and historical worlds. Panels and working groups at Linked Pasts are more goal-oriented than a conventional academic conference, and activities and agendas are often proposed, developed and revised by all participants at the event itself. In the absence of individual presentations and lectures, posters are a great way to share a project, dataset, method or activity related to the LOD and historical or heritage research, and discuss your work in a less formal setting with other interested attendees.

To propose a poster, please send an abstract of 100–150 words to valeria.vitale@bl.uk by the end of Monday, November 9, 2020.

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Text-based Extraction, Analysis, and Annotation of Ancient Greek References to Authors and Works

Monica Berti has been recently awarded a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) grant for a project on Named Entity Recognition (NER) and Annotation of ancient Greek.

The goal of the project is to extract, analyse, annotate and comment the language of ancient Greek references to authors and works. This project will produce a structured knowledge resource with ancient Greek word forms, corresponding lemmata, contextual annotations, coreferences and relations. The project will provide a full database of lemmatized and annotated Named Entities pertaining to words and expressions of bibliographic citations in ancient sources (author names, work titles, work descriptions and editions).

Digital Athenaeus

Entities will be semi-automatically extracted and annotated in the text of the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus of Naucratis as part of the Digital Athenaeus project. Preliminary annotations will be also performed on the Lexicon of the ten orators of Valerius Harpocration and on the Suda (Α-Γ entries). NLP methods and computational linguistics tools like INCEpTION and ANNIS will be used to produce and visualise annotations.

The final goal is to produce a text-based catalog of ancient Greek literature with a structured knowledge base that can be reused to annotate and analyse other texts. Annotations will be the result of a deep analysis of the original language and the project will produce a commentary of ancient practices of source references.

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Sunoikisis Digital Classics, Fall 2020

The Sunoikisis Digital Classics programme (SunoikisisDC), a collaborative endeavor involving faculty from six continents, produces reusable materials that many participants use in some way in their own teaching. It was founded in 2015 by Monica Berti in Leipzig, as an offshoot of the Sunoikisis programme hosted by the Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies. It is now co-chaired by Monica Berti in Leipzig and Gabriel Bodard in London, with co-organizers all around the world.

The core of the syllabus is the online session, delivered by one or more presenters via live YouTube video, with slides, demos, discussion panels and the potential for student interaction via chat. Sessions are accompanied by (open access) reading lists, resources and exercises for students to gain hands-on experience in tools, methods and skills discussed. Many faculty who use SunoikisisDC in their teaching have students follow the online sessions and attempt practical exercises, and then attend a seminar or tutorial in person, which allows collaboration, discussion, technical support and feedback on both formative and assessed work. This year, of course, some of this in-person engagement is likely to be moved online as well.

SunoikisisDC 2020-2021 Wiki

There are currently three semesters of SunoikisisDC sessions, organised more or less independently, and with a greater or lesser degree of overlap with each other (and indeed with sessions from previous years), depending on the organizers. There are also individual sessions and mini-semesters, held at irregular times and hosted on the same YouTube channel. In fall of 2020 the syllabus is Digital Classics (in parallel with the ICS02 master module in London), chaired by Gabriel Bodard, with co-chairs Monica Berti, Irene Vagionakis (Bologna) and Polina Yordanova (Helsinki) each responsible for a portion of the programme, on the themes of collaboration, text encoding, and computational linguistics, respectively. The spring 2021 syllabus will focus on Digital Approaches to Cultural Heritage (alongside London module ICS03), and is led again by Bodard with co-chairs Valeria Vitale (British Library), Andrea Wallace (Exeter) and Alicia Walsh (Recollection Heritage). The summer 2021 programme, Digital Classics (as part of the MSc of Digital Humanities in Leipzig), is led by Monica Berti.

The full programme of the fall Digital Classics semester is at the SunoikisisDC GitHub Wiki, including session pages, YouTube links, reading lists, exercises, and summaries of all sessions. The calendar is as follows (sessions are on Thursdays at 17:00–18:15 German time  unless indicated otherwise):

  1. Thu, Oct 8, 2020: Open Source software, commandline and Git (Monica Berti, Gabriel Bodard & Irene Vagionakis) [session page] [YouTube]
  2. Thu, Oct 15, 2020: Introduction to Markup (Jonathan Blaney, Charlotte Tupman, Irene Vagionakis) [session page] [YouTube]
  3. Monday, Oct 19, 2020: EpiDoc XML (Gabriel Bodard, Alessio Sopracasa, Irene Vagionakis) [session page] [YouTube]
  4. Thu, Oct 29, 2020: Introduction to Computational Linguistics (Alek Keersmaekers, Marton Ribary, Thea Sommerschield) [session page] [YouTube]
  5. Thu, Nov 5, 2020: Web Annotation (Monica Berti, Valeria Vitale) [session page] [YouTube]
  6. Thu, Nov 12, 2020: Research with Wikimedia Commons (Monica Berti, Gabriel Bodard, Richard Nevell) [session page] [YouTube]
  7. Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 16:30–17:45: Using Treebanks (Francesca Dell’Oro, Vanessa Gorman, Marja Vierros, Polina Yordanova) [session page] [YouTube]
  8. Thu, Nov 26, 2020: Translation Technologies (Franziska Naether, Chiara Palladino) [session page] [YouTube]
  9. Thu, Dec 3, 2020: Visualisation (Aurélien Berra, Gabriel Bodard, Naomi Wells) [session page] [YouTube]

All sessions are freely available online, and everyone, student or not, is welcome to watch, leave comments in the live chat if you are with us live, and attempt the exercises. Contents of the SunoikisisDC Programme remain available on GitHub and YouTube indefinitely, and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you are interested in using any of the SunoikisisDC materials in your own teaching and would like to discuss any aspect of the programme, please do get in touch with any of us.

Monica Berti, Gabriel Bodard, and Valeria Vitale

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Digital Classicist London online seminars report

The Digital Classicist London seminar, one of the many research seminar series hosted by the Institute of Classical Studies, has been videoed and posted to our YouTube channel since 2013, and livecast directly since 2016. Both of these developments were by popular demand, since there was an international audience with an appetite for the content of these presentations of computational or quantitative approaches to the study of antiquity. We have always known that more people watched the videos online than attended the seminars in Senate House. The archived versions of the live webcasts also tended to double in views within a week of the seminar, suggesting a roughly equal number of people who watched live and who caught up shortly after the event.

Due to the global pandemic making in-person events impossible for the whole of summer 2020, this year’s seminar was run entirely online, with speakers, chairs, and sometimes a small “studio audience” of two or three guests participating via the streaming service Streamyard. In place of open discussion in the room at the end of the seminar (which was often not very well captured in the streamed version in previous years, since audio pick-up was via the laptop’s built-in microphone), we took brief questions from the in-call audience, and activated YouTube’s “live chat” feature for comments from those watching remotely in real time.

Screengrab from Thea Sommerschield's Digital Classicist seminar, in Streamyard

It was of course gratifying that these online-only seminars reached a very much increased and diversified audience, including people who for a range of geographical, professional and social reasons could not attend a seminar in London on a Friday afternoon. Even more striking, however, was the engaged and lively participation from the remote audience. Seminars live-streamed to Youtube have always had the option for the remote audience to ask questions that would be relayed to the speaker, either via comments or a Twitter hashtag, but this was almost never taken advantage of in previous years. After each seminar in the 2020 season there was vigorous discussion, not only among those of us in the call, but also between and among the remote participants via the YouTube “live chat” feature.

I think a combination of actively addressing and engaging with the live audience before and during the seminar itself, and the fact that there was no in-room audience to make remote viewers feel like outsiders or interlopers, led to this burst of enthusiasm for online discussion. It was very nice to see a mix of familiar names and new colleagues among those participating in the live chat, and a range of questions and comments that showed real engagement with the projects and topics under discussion. I hope that we can maintain this lively discussion in the digital forum even when seminars are being held in a room in meatspace again.

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Digital Classicist Wiki editing sprints

The Institute of Classical Studies now hosts the Digital Classicist Wiki, a community-edited database of information, questions and commentary on projects, tools, methods and other resources relating to the digital or quantitative study of the ancient world. The site includes nearly 3000 pages edited by 250 registered users, and receives irregular but frequent contributions as well as an organized monthly editing sprint, when editors gather to improve the coverage of specific themes. Since the site moved to its new home at the ICS in 2020, a larger editorial board has been convened, with a brief to manage engagement and strategy for the Wiki.

Digital Classicist Wiki front page

On the first Tuesday of every month (probably the second in January), the editors and various other volunteers meet in an IRC chatroom for two hours of editing, during which people can discuss changes and issues, ask questions, request an editing account from one of the administrators, reserve pages, and otherwise feel involved and engaged while conducting what is otherwise solitary work editing a wiki page. Participants are invited to take part in each month’s theme, which helps to bring in new communities and collaborators, but may also work on any area of the site that is of interest to them (or even just press Random Page and see what can be improved). For instance, currently Hannah Hungerford, a masters student at KCL, is undertaking a summer placement funded by the Roman Society, to work on improving the connections between the DC Wiki and library catalogues and review venues, helping to set up links in both directions.

In the next few months, sprints are planned on the following themes:

  • October 6, 2020: Prosopography and onomastics, person and name catalogues
  • November 3, 2020: EpiDoc and digital epigraphy and papyrology
  • December 1, 2020: Clean-up: look at old and flagged pages
  • I would like to propose a sprint on Hittite and Cuneiform projects at some point in the new year, to be announced

We welcome new volunteers, whether you plan to attend a sprint or just add pages for your favourite projects from time to time. We are also very happy to receive suggestions for pages to be added or improved, even if you don’t want to edit them yourself, and we welcome suggested themes for future sprints from the digital classicist community. Contact any of the Administrators to discuss anything you have in mind, or make suggestions on the Digital Classicist discussion list where they may be taken up by others.

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