The Pelagios project is pleased to announce a two-day colloquium on the subject of “Linked Pasts”. Bringing together leading exponents of Linked Data from across the Humanities and Cultural Heritage sector, we address some of the challenges to developing a digital ecosystem of online open materials, through two days of position papers, discussion and breakout group activity. Day 1 will tackle the themes of Time, Geo and People, and issues of Open Data, Classification Schemes and Infrastructure. Day 2 will be devoted to two parallel structured activities, one exploring Niches (space, time, people), and the other Nutrition Cycles (open data, classification, infrastructure). For details of the line up of talks and contributors, see below.

Refreshments (tea/coffee, lunch) will be provided, along with a reception on Monday evening.

The event is free of charge but places are limited. Please reserve your place through Eventbrite.

Day 1

   Welcome – Pelagios: A Linked Pasts Ecosystem?

   Keynote – Sebastian Heath (NYU), TBA

Session 1

   Time – Ryan Shaw (UNC), An Ecosystem of Time Periods: PeriodO

   Geo – Ruth Mostern (UC Merced), An Ecosystem of Places: Gazetteers

   People – Gabriel Bodard (KCL), An Ecosystem of People: SNAP

Session 2

   Open Data – Mia Ridge (OU), Trends and Practice within Cultural Heritage

   Classification schemes – Antoine Isaac (Amsterdam), Europeana

Day 2

Session 3: Towards an Infrastructure

   Rainer Simon (AIT): The Recogito Annotation Platform

   Humphrey Southall (Portsmouth): PastPlace gazetteer

   Guenther Goerz (Erlangen): WissKI

   Holly Wright/Doug Tudhope: Ariadne

Session 4

   Structured Activity 1: Niches (Space, Time, People)

   Structured Activity 2: Nutrition Cycles (Open Data, Classification, Infrastructure)

Wrap up: feedback, next steps + community actions

**Linked data goodness brought to you by elton, leif, rainer + pau**

***The colloquium is made possible by the generosity of our funders, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the AHRC***

Mapping Herodotus: countercartography, network graphs and bottomless maps

The past decade has seen a growing spatialization of literary studies, closely connected with the development of new geographical technologies, such as GIS, and their application to the humanities (Dear et al. 2011: GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place, New York). For example, Antiquity Á la Carte allows users to investigate the historical, cultural and geographical data produced by the Ancient World Mapping Center. Yet there is a problem with GIS applications, when applied to research into ancient geography. On the one hand, they present a pre-determined vision of the world, based on Cartesian principles and contemporary modes of thinking, into which users “plug in” data from antiquity. On the other, GIS, as a point-based geometrical package, is particularly poorly equipped to deal with the predominant primary source that preserve ancient conceptualisations of space—texts. In my contribution to this workshop, I will outline the ongoing efforts of two projects to use mapping visualisations as the means of interrogating and challenging our understanding of ancient world space (cf. Harley, J. B. 1989: ‘Deconstructing the map’, Cartographica 26, 1-20): the Hestia project, which investigates the ways in which geographic space is organised and represented in Herodotus’s Histories; and Pelagios, which uses and develops the principles of Linked Open Data to facilitate the construction of (potentially) bottomless maps.

Textual space is constructed by and through the stories told about it, where ideas such as hodology (Purves, A. 2010: Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative. Cambridge) and topokinesis (Turnbull, D. 2007: Maps, narratives and trails: performativity, hodology and distributed knowledges in complex adaptive systems—an approach to emergent mapping. Geographical Research 45, 140-49) provide an interpretative framework for reimagining Herodotean space. Developing the idea of ‘proxies’, we explored how individuals, social groups or even non-human agents contributed to the complexity of spatial representation in the Histories. In particular, we analysed these spatial entities in terms of their textual relatedness—whether and how places and/or proxies are linked by the author. The resulting ‘X-ray’ maps (cf. Moretti, F. 1998: Atlas of the European Novel, 1800–1900. London) seemed to offer to us alternative pathways through Herodotean space that can bring to the fore the underlying ways in which spatial understanding is constructed in terms of action and influence rather than cartographic location.

Texts, however, are only one source and means of accessing important data salient to rethinking ancient world space. In a rapidly expanding digital environment, it is now possible to gain access to primary data of all different kinds, rather than rely solely on their interpretation in print publications. But how is one able to find them and bring them to bear on one’s own research? The Pelagios project uses global gazetteer services (e.g. to achieve a connectivity through common references, with the result that online documents of varying nature—not only literary texts but also inscriptions, archaeological finds, museum objects, photographs, etc.— can be read in and against each other. As well as helping us to see the ancient world as being every bit as interconnected, interactive and interesting as the present (Elliott, T. and Gillies, S. (2009): Digital Geography and Classics. Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.1), this community driven initiative has the potential to transform research, while also posing the challenge of developing the tools and methods that need to be developed for that research to take place.

Shared Stories: A Mediated Model

[Posting the following on behalf of Ruth Page, one of our symposium speakers.]

In my paper at the Moving Lives symposium I will talk about a model I am developing for analysing shared stories.  Shared stories are a narrative genre that is increasingly important in the contemporary communicative landscape. Shared stories have antecedents in retellings that are found in literary contexts (adaptations), in co-constructed conversational stories and in the multiple versions of stories that circulate in the news media.  But above all, shared stories are prevalent in social media contexts where the verb ‘share’ has taken on media-specific meanings.  As John (2013) points out, ‘sharing’ has become a potent keyword in social media, where its communicative meaning (to tell) and its distributive meaning (to give away) has a particular resonance in the ability to publish and repost stories which are told and retold by many people and across many contexts.

In the biographical narratives about public figures that are told in social media contexts, the analysis of shared stories needs to take into account of the contexts in which the stories are produced and reproduced. This includes analysis of:

  • The generic context (the site and its affordances)
  • The interactional context (the ways stories are embedded in relation to other kinds of talk)
  • The multimodal context (the audio-visual content that might accompany any written text)
  • The meta-data available

The analysis of how material is shared (in terms of distribution) can benefit from ‘big data’ approaches that are able to trace patterns through the meta-data across many interactions, but often this can miss the multi-modal complexity of what is being told in the story itself.  As a case study, I will explore data taken from a public Facebook community page that marked the death of former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

A note on tools:

Netvizz is a great, free tool developed by Rieder (2013) and his colleagues, which allows you to export publically available data from Facebook and then use tools like Gephi to explore network analysis, or transfer content into other software for further analysis.

And a note on the wider project:

I have also been applying this model of shared stories to data taken from Wikipedia and Twitter, though there will not be time to discuss this in my presentation!  I’m very happy to chat in person about the project, or to share draft work in progress.

Ruth Page

Some Prosopographies Striving to Collaborate on Personae Records

SNAPDragon is Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-Roman Names.

They write of their project something that is surprisingly relevant to the experience of a contemporary prosopographer working with printed collections of biographies and a database of thousands of women.  How to integrate CBW’s persons with the name authorities and records that might exist in many repositories and souces such as Wikipedia?  Here’s the SNAP site’s statement:

“The general problem approached by the SNAP:DRGN project is exemplified by the inconsistency of and irregular overlap between the many huge databases of persons, names, and other personal data on the Internet. (These databases are familiar and ubiquitous, from lists of actors and creators in the Internet Movie Database or historical figures in Wikipedia, to private individuals via all sorts of social networking sites.) How does a researcher or analyst determine whether two records refer to the same person or are related in some other way, and whether other related information refers to both people equally? For this project we shall directly address these issues on a much smaller scale: there are very many historical prosopographies and onomastica (databases of persons and names), even within the relatively tight domain of Greco-Roman antiquity, and many of the same questions of identity and provenance apply. These databases can be worked on without the concerns raised by modern social network accounts: there are not the ethical and privacy concerns of working with living people; the scale, while still massive, is more tractable; there is much more academic coherence within the data, which, diverse as it is, is produced by a discipline with well-established working practices.”

The ethics and privacy issues are really worth pondering.

Questions: how to get traditional scholars to accept DH?

At the North American Victorian Studies Association conference, I was talking 
to a junior Victorianist who says she has members of her
dissertation committee who are hostile to DH. What are the scholarly
standards, what’s the payoff? Are there different challenges in
different areas to persuade traditional scholars that digital research
is more than shiny packaging? Any suggestions about how to link the
more customary and the technological methodologies and gain from the
different kinds of questions you can ask in projects of different
scale or with new tools?