Leipzig, January 11-13, 2017
On January 11-13, 2017, the Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities in Leipzig hosted a series of talks, focusing on current issues in spatial and social research applied to historical languages. The workshop was supported by the two Special Interest Groups in Greek and Roman antiquity of Pelagios Commons, and by the Global Philology Project of Leipzig.
In order to address our main concerns, we used the notion of “Named Entities” as a broader concept, not just in the meaning of “proper names” but as an expression of cultural/cognitive patterns representing information on space, time and people in premodern sources. Named Entities offer a gateway towards a completely new concept of “edition”. Named Entities are the primary vehicle for additional information, which allows a more comprehensive and complex understanding of the world: social information, community networks, spatial cognition, imaginary geographies, history of language and culture, political and economical turnovers. All these fields involve Named Entities as lead actors, and require highly developed and refined methods to be fully explored.
The aim of the workshop was not, therefore, to display showcases, but to address current issues of representation and classification typically connected to names in Humanities data. We especially focused on historical and premodern languages, where a limited set of resources is currently available in digital research, compared to modern studies.
The strong premise of the discussion was to go beyond the traditional Western-centred notion of Classical languages, by including premodern societies as a whole. This has been the strongpoint of the Global Philology Project so far: every civilization has a cultural heritage which is considered authoritative for the community, and is therefore considered “Classical”. We, therefore, considered as Classical languages not only Greek and Latin, but also Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Egyptian, Coptic, Syriac, and so on.
This amplification in scope is the consequence of our firm belief that scholarship should aim at a “global” understanding of premodern civilizations, as an interlinked world which must be investigated as broadly and deeply as possible through the exploration of primary sources. Hence, the idea that there should be a shared set of tools and standards across language domains, i.e. a “shared infrastructure” of the Premodern world. Pelagios provides a successful instance of generalized and decentralized infrastructure for Linked Open Geodata across disciplines and language domains, by focusing on the common concept of “place” and supporting the community with shared services: it seemed, therefore, the ideal partner for such an effort.