Update on the new MA in Digital Tools for Premodern Studies at Tufts

Beginning in Fall 2017
Applications due: February 15, 2017
General information: http://ase.tufts.edu/classics/graduate/digitalTools.htm

In September 2016, we announced the creation of a new MA at Tufts University (“Considering a post-bac in Classics? Think about the new MA in Digital Tools for Premodern Studies at Tufts.” This new program builds upon the established programs in Ancient Greek and Latin, as well as Sanskrit and Classical Arabic (which faculty in the Tufts Classics Department also already support), students are not limited to working with only these languages. If you have a historical language about which you feel passionate, we would welcome the opportunity to work on ways to support the development of skills in additional languages. Our goal is ultimately to support a global philology where students of many different languages from different cultures work more closely together.

During the fall, there were a number of developments of potential interest to applicants.

We now have a model for the opening semester, during which students will develop core skills and systematic exposure to work in Digital Classics as a whole in two complementary courses. The Computer Science Department has introduced a new course, an Introduction to Digital Humanities, taught by Prof. Marie-Claire Beaulieu, from the Department of Classics, and Dr. Anthony Bucci, a lecturer in Computer Science. This course focused particular upon the structure, visualization, and analysis of data in the Humanities and represents a step towards data science for the Humanities. In addition, Gregory Crane, Professor of Classics with a secondary appointment in Computer Science at Tufts, will teach a pro-seminar based upon the Sunoikisis Digital Classics Program. During 2016, Sunoikisis produced more than 30 online presentations, most with slides and readings, with a focus on language and text in the spring and summer and then in the fall on History and Archaeology. These two courses will give students a consistent curriculum and an opportunity to track the state-of-the-art in Digital Classics in the US and beyond.

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A New Version of Perseus and Academic Partnerships

An earlier blog entry pointed to a draft description of work on a new Perseus that we expect will appear, in some fashion, as a formal Request for Proposals from Leipzig in early January 2017. One reason to circulate this description is to get feedback. A second is to be able to explore different approaches before any formal RFP emerges. The comments in this blog are thus provisional and suggest possible directions. They constitute no promises.

We have heard from potential academic partners and would like to suggest an alternative approach. How we proceed will depend upon the response to the RFP when it is complete.

In suggesting an RFP, our goal was to focus on getting the job done and to do so by coming into a more formal contractual arrangement than is typical of academic partnerships and by drawing on more senior developers than are often available in an academic setting. We are particularly conscious that the skills that we require are highly in demand. The goal here is to build a new system and not, primarily, to conduct research. Nevertheless, the requirements are sufficiently distinct that publications should be possible in Digital Humanities, Digital Libraries or other areas.

We are open to the prospect of hiring someone in an academic context if suitable candidates are available. By far the easiest way for us to do that would be to hire someone at Leipzig — we could support at least one person full time for one year with additional part-time help. We might, in this scenario, pursue a hybrid approach and include also an external contract to supervise and augment what this person could do. It all depends upon the capabilities of who is available.

If we hire someone at Leipzig, that person would have to have demonstrated credible experience in developing user interfaces and supporting user interaction, a clear capability to build upon the CTS, XML and other foundations upon which the backend of the new Perseus depends and the other requirements (for which the draft RFP provides a provisional description).

Germany has formalized guidelines for how much it pays and, in our experience, there is very, very little flexibility. Working for a private firm is likely to pay more that Leipzig could offer. On other hand, a suitable candidate from abroad could expect to receive a visa with minimal difficulty (at least in comparison to the US), begin work immediately in an English-speaking work environment, and, at the same time, develop experience and contacts within Germany. If a candidate devoted time to learning the language while here, that experience and even an incipient command of the language could open up new professional prospects in Germany. At the same time, while we cannot guarantee anything beyond March 2018, there might well be possibilities for a particularly good fit to continue at Leipzig. Alternatively, this could involve someone who comes to Leipzig from another academic institution for a year and then returns.

In any event, given the relative prominence that the work will have (at least within the Humanities community), successful work on the new Perseus could provide distinctive elements to a portfolio. We could also imagine someone with a more academic background for whom work on the new Perseus would, in fact, advance an academic portfolio and who might well prove to be a long-term collaborator.

At this point, we would welcome recommendations of suitable people who might work at Leipzig. Again, we are making no formal promises but rather gauging possibilities as make final decisions as to whether to post a position at Leipzig in addition to (or conceivably in place of) a contract with a firm or professional consultant.

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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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