Looking at the topics discussed at the Digital Humanities conference in 2012, in Hamburg, we can see that one particular area of interest is History and Archaeology. From text analysis to spell checking for ancient texts, the power of computer pattern matching and data mining techniques, combined with the already immense data set represented by the internet can help scientists do their work.
This is a very powerful trend in digital humanities, fact shown by the number of various talks based on topics in the field. Most of the topics touched are based on text processing and the answer for this is a pretty straight forward one: text processing techniques are at a more mature level and offer more accurate results as opposed to image or video processing techniques.
One topic that was very interesting and that, I believe, can help future researchers a lot is concerned with connecting as many data sources and data items as possible, to a certain topic of interest. Having in a mind to build a large nexus of old world places, the people behind Pelagios have stumbled onto something bigger.
First of all, lets take a closer look at Pelagios and what it does. Some of the most difficult things to do when trying to do research in a particular area are finding new information and organizing the information you already have. And this is not all! Once you did it, there is a distinct possibility that you will need it again, that is, you will need to reuse it. Or better yet, somebody else will want to use it.
By using a system based on URIs, Pelagios assigns to each old world place a unique URI and now each end-user can annotate his artifacts with that URI and they all become connected. In this way, a large network is formed and it can be navigated with ease. One can now say “well, what does this help me with?” or “I already know what my artifacts are about”. This is true, at least partially. The key point of this is that all the resources belonging to every participating researcher are connected in this network. Furthermore, any resource on the internet can be apart of the network. This is very helpful because it facilitates navigation, the discovery of new resources and the collaboration between research groups.
Collaboration is another key point where digital humanities come into play. Through the use of modern day technology, people in different corners of the world can work together and different research groups can see what is going on in the world in their field of study.
What Pelagios is doing is not data aggregation or some form of standardization; it is creating a way to help researchers find what they are looking for easily. It may be the case that there are some ancient texts written in an old language and they are not translated. In a classical approach, you would have to translate it to see what it is about, maybe only to find out that it is not interesting for your problem. With the use of these URIs, even though you don’t know what it says, you know what topic it is connected to and in that way you don’t waste effort.
They integrated their tool into a web browser so that people can use it easily, just by going over certain URLs, you can see to what topic you will end up in by going there. One can wonder if this will grow in the future to some form of augmented reality. Just imagine archaeologists at a certain site, and just by looking through a mobile phone they will see what other resources are connected to what they are investigating.
I believe that this is a very strong trend in digital humanities and that in the future there will be even more applications in the field of History and Archaeology. The direction of organization and categorization of new information is a powerful one and the digital world we live in can greatly help the humanities.