The DO 2023 Conference: schedule and abstracts


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10:15 AM Opening remarks by Mariana Zorkina

First session, chaired by Theodora Zampaki

10:25 AM Anastasia Pineschi, The International Dunhuang Project: The Path Forward After 30 Years

10.50 AM Rachael Griffiths & Daniel Wojahn, Balancing Innovation and Preservation: Sustainability in the Oral History of Tibetan Studies Project

11:15 AM Shuang Xiao, Journal of Digital Humanities: Being Sustainable by Building A Chinese Digital Humanities Community

11:40 AM Discussion

12PM Break

Second session, chaired by Jonathan Robker

1 PM Michael Stanley-Baker, Polyglot Asian Medicine

1:25 PM James Harry Morris, How can we ensure longevity? Thoughts at the beginning of a project

1:50 PM Jyothi Justin, Reproducibility of Indian DH Projects: A Case Study

2:15 PM Discussion

2:35 PM Break

Third session, chaired by Mariana Zorkina

3:00 PM Alex Gardner and Catherine Tsuji, The Treasury of Lives

3:25 PM Roberta L. Dougherty, Yale’s AMEEL and OACIS Projects: Object Lessons in Sustainability of Complex Digital Projects

3:50 PM Amy E. Harth, The Importance of Independent Digital Archives for Sustainable, Reproducible Humanities Research

4.15 PM Discussion

4.25 PM Closing remarks

TITLES and ABSTRACTS (following the schedule)

Anastasia Pineschi, The International Dunhuang Project: The Path Forward After 30 Years
Abstract: Begun in 1994, the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) connects metadata and images of ancient material the Silk Roads via a free website database. As one of the first digitisation projects of its kind, the IDP has emerged as a globally recognised open access initiative and an ambitious project that has established lasting international partnerships. However, now that the IDP is approaching 30 years old, questions have arisen around how the project’s well-established infrastructure will adapt to emerging database standards and sustainable technologies. The presentation will feature conversations surrounding the redevelopment of the IDP’s website, which allows free access our database and supplementary resources. Multiple factors must be considered during this project: the maintenance of 4D’s synchronisation mechanism which facilitates the sharing of records between the local instances of the database, the repackaging of older online resources for a modern audience, and the desire to embrace modern access standards like the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). By staging this presentation through the lens of our current website redevelopment, I will show how the IDP collaboratively makes critical value judgements, navigates international partnerships, and adapts to emerging data standards and technologies to ensure that the project’s efforts remain valuable in a digital environment that is significantly different from the one in which they began nearly 30 years ago. Maintaining a free, publicly-accessible database for Silk Roads materials encourages a better understanding of the ancient world, and only by continually re-evaluating our legacy infrastructure can we facilitate exemplary scholarship sustainably into the future.

Rachael Griffiths & Daniel Wojahn, Balancing Innovation and Preservation: Sustainability in the Oral History of Tibetan Studies Project
Abstract: The Oral History of Tibetan Studies (OHTS) project aims to collect and preserve the memories of the pioneers of Tibetan studies, both through recorded interviews and visual materials made available in our digital archive. Since its launch in 2017, OHTS has collected over 80 interviews – more than 300 hours of footage – in a multitude of languages, with individuals across Europe, North America, and Asia. As our project continues to grow and develop, we have faced several challenges, including:
1. What is the best approach to systematically digitise, curate, and archive our materials?
2. What should take precedent (for the project and to attract potential funders); preserving interviews online through publishing ‘raw’ data or ensuring the interviews, which can be between 3-12 hours long, are accessible and useable? Can these aims be balanced?
3. How do we utilise and incorporate rapidly evolving technology into our workflow?
This paper addresses our approach to these challenges and explores OHTS’s strategies for making our collection tangible to a wide audience without compromising on the sustainability and reusability of the data. In the process, we seek to adopt digital tools that are not only user-friendly and intuitive, but also meet modern standards in line with the FAIR principles and ultimately bridge the gap between innovation and sustainability.

Shuang Xiao, Journal of Digital Humanities: Being Sustainable by Building A Chinese Digital Humanities Community
Abstract: his paper shares three years’ experience of the Journal of Digital Humanities (《数字人文》)in China, and shows how to be a sustainable DH project by building a DH community. Journal of Digital Humanities(Quarterly) is the first academic DH collection in the Chinese Mainland. Before then, Chinese digital humanists were scattered across different universities, with few opportunities for collaboration or a dedicated place to publish their work. The Journal of Digital Humanities provides a platform for Digital Humanists to communicate, building a DH community, which makes itself more sustainable. Journal of Digital Humanities was launched in December 2019, sponsored by China’s Tsinghua University and the Zhonghua Book Company. It was difficult to run a DH journal in a country where DH was still in its infancy. who are the peers? who is qualified to review? Is there an evaluation criteria for DH? Likewise, the challenge of obtaining adequate and high-quality papers is a huge one. This paper will present a timeline of the specific challenges and solutions encountered by the journal, such as international collaborations, academic translations, and support from research projects. To make the journal sustainable, based on the journal, we have created a series of platforms for communication and academic delivery:
Wechat “DH数字人文” Website “Digital Humanities in China”,
Twitter “DHinChina”
Lectures and workshops (in person/online)
The annual “Future Scholars Forum”, which gains more readers and authors for the journal, and also builds a DH community, making our journal more sustainable.
We also hope that through this presentation, more international scholars will pay attention to our journal, and to Chinese DH, and promote communication between Chinese DH and the international DH community.

Michael Stanley-Baker, Polyglot Asian Medicine
Abstract: Please see this video. Sustainability proves a multi-factored thing in running this site. Minor website fees are needed for the front end, which I could pay for in a short-term grant. The Berlin State Library is in conversation to host the text catalogue, and as a 400 year-old institution, they understand what longue-duree means, and house data in perpetuity., and the data tables float in a Google sheets drive. However, the Drug Term synonymy runs in Neo4j costs a gas-guzzling $250 or so a month, and will quickly cripple me without large grant-applications. It’s not sustainable in its current form. I needed Neo4j to get the concept visible, as a proof-of-concept, but will need to find collaborators who can provide alternate, affordable means with comparable abilities.

James Harry Morris, How can we ensure longevity? Thoughts at the beginning of a project
Abstract: How do we ensure the longevity of a project particularly when we are just setting out on a project? How do we do this knowing that funding will expire? How do we do this even if we expect low levels of usership? In this paper, I will explore my approach to these questions using concrete examples from the “Kirishitan-ban in the Digital Age: A Study of the Opportunities and Limitations of Applying Digital Methods to Kirishitan-ban” project (henceforth KirishitanBank). I will argue that the longevity of a project is not necessarily tied to usership levels and funding, but that long-term planning, a consideration for users’ needs, and preparedness for the quickly changing digital environment are essential to ensure that projects are sustainable.

Jyothi Justin, Reproducibility of Indian DH Projects: A Case Study
Abstract: Digital Humanities (DH) in India is continuously evolving to carve a space of its own through its contribution to the global DH theory, pedagogy, and tools. With the increasing number of independent, institutional, and/or collaborative DH projects in the country, it is now necessary to move beyond the primary questions of digitisation, infrastructure, and Anglican influence in Indian DH, to that of sustainability, reproducibility and explainability of DH projects. In this paper, we critically examine and theorise on the concept of reproducibility of DH projects in India. The paper achieves this by conducting a bipartite case study of selected Indian DH practitioners and their projects. Firstly, a survey is conducted with the practitioners on questions ranging from the meaning of the concept, tools that facilitate reproducibility, and the process of documentation, to the problems (like institutional or funding agency policies) that restrict the practitioners from following an open-access, reproducible workflow. Secondly, projects of the selected DH practitioners are examined to understand the reproducibility offered by the projects. The critical analysis of the projects will foreground the constraints in reproducibility faced by Indian DH projects due to linguistic and semantic barriers, along with observations on the “open, shareable, reproducible workflows” of the projects (Liu et al, 2017). The results from the case study led to the proposal of a suitable model that effectively offers reproducibility of Indian DH projects.

Alex Gardner and Catherine Tsuji, The Treasury of Lives
Abstract: The Treasury of Lives (TOL) is a digital-only biographical encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia, and the Himalayan region. Its mission is to provide accessible and well-researched biographies of notable individuals who are deceased and who were native to the region. Most essays are peer reviewed. Content is enhanced by a dynamic map. TOL was created as a project of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in New York City in 2007, and has been independent since 2017, relying on grants, donations, and institutional subscriptions for continued development. Sustainability for TOL is twofold: financial and collaborative. The site needs funding to cover the costs of two salaried employees, and it needs community involvement and partner organizations to continue to add and refine content. To that end staff dedicates considerable time to fundraising and reporting, as well as to communicating with partners, authors, reviewers, and audience members regarding new and existing content. Each of these, as one would expect, often informs the other; with broad involvement of the Tibetan studies and Buddhist communities, The Treasury of Lives has built a lasting foundation of financial and critical support. This support has translated into a successful university subscription program and to individual donations from readers, both of which are growing with our audience. A National Endowment for the Humanities planning grant led to additional support for an implementation project that has enabled content expansion and long-term sustainability planning, helping to establish the resource as an authoritative source of information.

Amy E. Harth, The Importance of Independent Digital Archives for Sustainable, Reproducible Humanities Research
Abstract: As humanities research has evolved in the internet age, many scholars now conduct their archival and research work mostly or entirely online. However, digital archives are often maintained by commercial and governmental entities some of which erect significant gatekeeping, others of which disappear leaving researchers without access to these resources. This presentation provides a researcher’s perspective on the importance of developing and maintaining independent digital archives. Examples of current limitations of digital archival research in African Studies are highlighted and help support the case for independent digital archives as a means to create sustainable research sources that can also extend the work of existing or defunct archives. Limitations of digital archives discussed include barriers to inclusion in academic and public libraries, especially for non-academic commercial sources; academic sources available for institutional access only; limited search features and constrained metadata reducing research options; and bias in search algorithms. Evidence from humanities research, as shown in this presentation, demonstrates the usefulness and current constraints of digital archives about topics in the 20th and 21st centuries to research in interdisciplinary fields, including African studies, media studies, and international economic development.

Roberta L. Dougherty, Yale’s AMEEL and OACIS Projects: Object Lessons in Sustainability of Complex Digital Projects
Abstract: The presentation will discuss two digital projects designed & launched at Yale in the first decade of the current century. OACIS (Online Access to Consolidated Information on Serials), launched in 2004, was a union list of periodical holdings for periodical publications either from or about the Middle East. The project relied not only on a boutique technology for its platform, but also on sustained interest of a membership list of dozens of academic and research libraries. When the original host (Yale) could no longer support the project, the American University in Beirut offered to take it on. But when the original members declined to continue providing customized reports of serials holdings drawn from their own catalogs, this unique tool was sunset in 2020 after only 15 years of service. AMEEL (the Arabic & Middle East Electronic Library), launched in 2006, offered the first significant online presence of fully OCR’d Arabic text, with 350K pages digitized from a select group of scholarly periodicals. AMEEL used existing OCR software as well as an unspecified amount of human intervention to produce results claimed to be 90% accurate. Though pioneering, the project is never mentioned in any current discussions of Arabic OCR initiatives, and its current behavior is functionally different from the original vision. The fate of these two projects offers a cautionary tale about the sustainability of legacy digital projects, no matter their inherent value.