Draft for a Request for Proposals for a new Perseus Digital Library

We expect that Leipzig University will release a formal RFP early in January. Until and unless Leipzig University does so, there are no promises or guarantees of any kind. Our goal is to give the community a chance to comment and potential contractors an opportunity to begin thinking about what they might do.

A draft is available at https://goo.gl/k4oRzw.

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Upcoming Request for Proposals for a new Perseus Digital Library

Gregory Crane

The University of Leipzig is preparing to release a Request for Proposals from developers to begin work on a new version of Perseus. The proposed work will build upon the Canonical Text Services protocols in general and upon the CaPiTains Tool Suite and Guidelines for CTS in particular (http://capitains.github.io/ and in particular http://capitains.github.io/pages/guidelines). The proposed work builds upon the existing CTS server in the CapiTainS ToolSuite. The focus is primarily upon the interface.

We are seeking recommendations from members of the community (Digital Humanists and Digital Classicists as well as libraries) for developers. The call will be open but we want to make sure that we reach contractors with relevant experience — we are not building a standard e-commerce site. We need a contractor who will be able to take in our needs and who will be able to accomplish the job.

While we expect that the initial contract will last one year, there is a possibility of a second phase of work generalizing the initial efforts to support a wider range of language, as planning project for a possible Global Philology Project is underway.

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Lecture on “Visualization for Close and Distant Reading”

Gerik Scheuermann, Leipzig University, Germany
Olin Hall 007
6:00-7:15 PM
Wednesday October 19
Tufts University
Medford MA

Visualization plays a prominent role in digital humanities. It allows to communicate results of digital analysis to humanists. The talk presents four contributions in this area. We start with a CTS reader that allows for human access to digital resources based on the canonical text service that was orignally invented for computers only. We will show that using CTS addresses as links in texts written on a computer can be made simple in this way. We will continue with text variant graphs that can be laid out in a way that allows for simple comparison of several text variants. We study this using 8 versions of the bible as example. The third contribution concerns GeoTemCo, a javascript based web service for the study of larger datasets with geographic location and timestamp for each data item. The service includes comparison of up to four different datasets and access to individual objects via spatial and temporal selection. Finally, we will show how interactive visual analysis helps with studying similarities and differences between musicians from a large database.

Short biography:
Gerik Scheuermann received the master degree (diplom) in mathematics in 1995 and a PhD degree in computer science in 1999, both from the Technical University of Kaiserslautern. He is a full professor at the University of Leipzig since 2004. He has coauthored more than 200 reviewed book chapters, journal articles, and conference
papers. His current research interests focus on visualization and visual analytics, especially on feature and topology-based methods, flow visualization, environmental visualization, medical visualization, document visualization and visualization for life sciences. He has served as paper co-chair for all major conferences in visualization (Eurovis 2008, IEEE SciVis 2011, IEEE SciVis 2012, and IEEE PacificVis 2015). He has organized TopoInVis 2007, AGACSE 2008, EuroVis 2013, and the Dagstuhl seminar on Visualization in 2014. He was associated editor of IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 2008-2012, and is currently an associated editor of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, The Visual Computer and Computer Graphics Forum. In addition, he serves as speaker of the working group on visualization in the German Computer Science Society (Gesellschaft für Informatik, GI) since 2011.

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Call for Papers – “Open Conference on Digital Infrastructures for Global Philology”

February 20-23, 2017 Leipzig, Germany


The Alexander von Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig, Germany, will host an “Open Conference on Digital Infrastructures for Global Philology” from February 20-23, 2017 at the University of Leipzig. The purpose of this conference is to bring together members of the larger scholarly community, both within and outside of Germany with a focus on, but not limited to, those scholars working with historical languages. This conference should help both to advance the discussions already happening between large and medium-sized infrastructure-building projects on the one hand and (digital) humanities scholars on the other and to introduce new topics that have yet to find a forum for public discussion.

Possible topics for proposed papers include, but are not limited to, the following questions:

●  What digital services, collections and curricula have emerged from particular funded projects that are of such general utility that they can be adopted as part of a long-term infrastructure upon which students of a field, at every level of expertise, can depend for years and decades?

●  What infrastructure developments within larger fields (including large European infrastructure projects such as Clarin, Dariah and Europeana but also substantive efforts in the natural and life sciences) provide foundations upon which historical languages can build?

●  What digital services, collections or curricula need to be developed so that a field of study can flourish in a digital society?

●  What funding mechanisms and organizational structures are in place/need to be put in place in libraries, computing centers, and academic departments?

The deadline for paper submissions is November 15, 2016. Submissions and review will be handled through the EasyChair system.

Please visit https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=gphil2017 if you wish to submit a paper for review. Decisions about submissions will be made by November 30, 2016. Limited funding will be available for reimbursement of the travel expenses of presenters.

The context for this conference is a planning project, funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (https://www.bmbf.de/). An English version of the proposal is available at http://tinyurl.com/hsenh44.

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Considering a post-bac in Classics? Think about the new MA in Digital Tools for Premodern Studies at Tufts.


This blog focuses upon what this program offers to students who have traditionally participated in post-baccalaureate programs to prepare for a PhD program in Greco-Roman studies. Two years ago I published a blog entitled “So you want to become a professor of Greek and/or Latin? Think hard about a PhD in Digital Humanities.” Here I talk about something that we have done at Tufts to improve the situation, creating an MA in Digital Tools for Premodern Studies that allows students to address two common challenges: the need to read more Greek and Latin and to familiarize themselves with the digital methods upon which their teaching and research will increasingly depend in the decades to come. You would then be in a position to pursue a PhD in those more traditional departments where faculty realize that junior scholars must adapt and that their own programs are not yet in a position to provide that training.

Before focusing on this particular topic, I do want to emphasize that the new MA in Digital Humanities for Premodern Studies, of course, also provides opportunities for a range of different subsequent career tracks. Libraries are being reinvented and demand personnel who can work with born-digital data about the past. All PhD Programs that engage with the human textual record need students who can exploit the latest digital methods. And the methods that students encounter in this program come from fields such as corpus and computational linguistics, text mining and visualization, geospatial and social network analysis, citizen science and other areas of general and emerging importance. The MA is also intended to support a growing range of historical languages and contexts; the Tufts Department of Classics already offers classes in Sanskrit (thanks to Anne Mahoney) as well as Greek and Latin and supports research in Classical Arabic (thanks to Riccardo Strobino). The two chairs of Classics who led the development of this program, past-chair Vickie Sullivan and current-chair Ioannis Evrigenis, are political philosophers with primary appointments in Political Science and their research offers opportunities for students who wish to explore early modern culture and its connections to the ancient world. Certain this connects to my own belief that we must redefine the meaning of Classics to include all Classical languages from the around the world (if we don’t just jettison this value-laden term in favor of historical languages or something more descriptive).

Our hope is to support an increasing range of languages and faculty will work with potential applicants to find ways to address their interests. But for those students who are looking for a program to prepare them for PhD programs in Greco-Roman studies or in fields where advanced knowledge of Greek or Latin are particularly helpful, the new MA in Digital Humanities for Premodern Studies offers a new approach.

Over the past generation a number of post-bac programs have emerged to help students expand their knowledge of Greek and Latin in preparation for PhD study. More recently, a new challenge has emerged: to exploit the possibilities and meet the challenges of a digital age, the study of Greek, Latin and all historical languages needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. In a very real sense, we have no modern editions, no modern lexica, no modern commentaries, no modern encyclopedias and no modern publications because our scholarship and the infrastructure upon which it resides still reflects, even when it appears in digital form, the limitations of print rather the possibilities of digital media. The study of historical languages — even languages like Greek and Latin, which have been the object of analysis for thousands of years — is in the process of reinventing itself. The challenge is to exploit the best from millennia of work, but to do so critically, identifying and transcending problematic assumptions about what we do and why. And if we are to do so, we need a new generation of researchers and teachers who have a command of emerging digital methods. Few PhD programs in Greek, Latin, or any other historical language are in a position to provide such expertise — the Digital Classicists who have emerged have been largely self-taught and many of those considered to be Digital Classicists (myself included) wish that they had had an opportunity for more formal training.

The new MA in Premodern Studies at Tufts thus addresses two different challenges, and does so in a way where work on each challenge reinforces the other. If students wish to improve their command of texts in historical languages such as Greek and Latin, one of the best ways is to take charge of a text and create the beginnings of its first truly digital edition.

What constitutes a truly digital edition?

  • A truly digital edition does not simply have digitized textual notes, modern language translation, and indices for people, places and primary sources that quote a text (e.g., the Greek texts that quote a particular passage of the Iliad) or that the text itself quotes (e.g., the authors that such as Plutarch or Athenaeus quote). A truly digital edition contains links to digital representations of the manuscripts, papyri, inscribed stones or other textual witnesses.
  • A truly digital edition does not simply add upper- and lower-case, paragraph breaks, and modern punctuation but explicitly encodes the morphological, syntactic, and semantic judgments upon which these print-culture conventions of annotation depend and to which they loosely allude. A truly digital edition encodes the best available data about which Alexander or which Alexandria a particular passage in a particular text designates and then captures social and geographical relationships in a format that can be automatically analyzed and dynamically visualized.
  • A truly digital edition encodes quotations within and references to a text as hypertextual links among evolving digital editions.
  • A truly digital edition can accommodate translations into multiple different modern languages, with each translation aligned, as appropriate, at the word and phrase level, both to help readers more effectively work with the original and to support new forms of scholarly analysis (e.g., using translation alignments to study changes in word sense over time).
  • At Tufts you can work with the emerging digital publication environment developed by the Perseids Project, create geospatial publications with Pelagios Commons, develop a project within the collaborative framework of the Homer Multitext project or any other open digital project. If you want to demonstrate to a potential PhD program your capacity to understand Greek and Latin, as well as your mastery of new digital methods, you can create a portfolio of your work and contribute to the next version of the Perseus Digital Library which is now under development at Tufts, Leipzig and elsewhere. The two year program allows you to develop a mature portfolio when Phd applications are due in December of your second year.

    Gregory Crane
    Program Director
    MA in Digital Humanities for Premodern Studies
    Winnick Family Chair of Technology and Entrepreneurship
    Professor of Classics
    Editor-in-Chief, Perseus Digital Library
    Adjunct Professor of Computer Science
    Tufts University

    Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Digital Humanities
    Leipzig University

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    Share your Perseus Story!

    The Perseus Digital Library is interested in hearing from you.

    Whether you are a long-time Perseus user or a new visitor, we want to know your story.

    We know our audience is using Perseus in many interesting and unusual ways and we’d like to hear about them.

    Did Perseus help you solve a problem? reach a goal? make a connection? Have a story you want to share?

    Please use the form here or drop an email to perseus_webmaster@tufts.edu with the subject line “My Perseus Story.”

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    The Humanities, RDA, and Infrastructure

    Earlier this year I blogged about why I think Perseus, and the digital humanities in general, needs infrastructure. In that post I discussed one strategy we’ve been following at Perseus – that of participating in the efforts of the Research Data Alliance (RDA).

    I was recently fortunate to be able to attend the Triangle Scholarly Communications Institute, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded workshop where the theme was “Validating and valuing digital scholarship.” While we did not spend much time talking specifically about “infrastructure”, it was implicit in all the solutions we discussed, from specific data models for representing scholarly assertions as a graph, to taxonomies for crediting work, to approaches for assessing quality. Cameron Neylon, a researcher at Curtin University and one of the institute participants blogged some thoughts upon returning home, including the following:

    “Each time I look at the question of infrastructures I feel the need to go a layer deeper, that the real solution lies underneath the problems of the layer I’m looking at. At some level this is true, but it’s also an illusion. The answers lie in finding the right level of abstraction and model building (which might be in biology, chemistry, physics or literature depending on the problem). Principles and governance systems are one form of abstraction that might help but it’s not the whole answer. It seems like if we could re-frame the way we think about these problems, and find new abstractions, new places to stand and see the issues we might be able to break through at least some of those that seem intractable today.” (Cameron Neylon, “Abundance Thinking“)

    I think this neatly sums up what I hope to gain from participation in the multidisciplinary community of RDA. It’s easy, especially when time and resources are constrained, to get locked into thinking that our problems are unique and that we need to design custom solutions, but when we examine the problem from other perspectives, the abstractions begin to rise to the surface.

    One of the challenges I took on when I agreed to serve as a liaison between RDA and the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO) was to try to engage humanities researchers in participating in designing solutions for data sharing infrastructure. Collaboration is not easy, even when you’re all working on the same team. We have been struggling with this even in our own small group of developers at Perseus and our sister community in Leipzig, the Open Philology Project. In a recent developers’ meeting we talked about how hard it is to find the time to consider another developer’s solution before going off and designing your own.

    But the rewards might be great. Imagine if by adding support to your project to acquire Persistent Identifiers for your data objects and for communicating the types of data represented by those identifiers you got for free the ability to, with the same code, interoperate with data objects from thousands of other projects. Or if implementing support for building and managing collections of objects meant that your data could participate seamlessly with collections of other projects. These are not abstract use cases. The New York Times just reported on the millions of dollars museums worldwide are spending to digitize their collections. What if we had a standard approach to managing digital objects in collections that allowed us to easily write software that could build new virtual museums from these collections? And are the requirements for such a solution very different from the needs of the Perseids project to manage collections of diverse types of annotations?

    A disillusioned colleague said to me not long ago that nothing we build is going to save the world. While this might be true, I think that we all work too hard to keep reinventing the wheel. It’s going to take us a little longer to build a solution for managing our collections of annotations if we do it in the context of an RDA working group, but to me the benefit of having the expertise and perspective of colleagues from other communities and disciplines, such as researchers from DKRZ (climate science), NoMaD (materials science) and the PECE project (ethnography) is worth the effort. Even if we don’t save the collections of the world, at the very least we’re certain to end up with a solution that is a little better than one we would have built on our own. I urge everyone to be part of the conversation and the solutions. Feel free to start by commenting on the RDA Research Data Collections Working Group case statement or subscribing to contribute to the effort!

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