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After reading several articles from the Digital Humanities 2012 conference, I found that modern technologies have been introduced into the study of the history in various ways. History always contains plenty of data and information, which need to be analyzed in an efficient way. So nowadays advanced technologies and already existed tools could make great contributions to the research of history.

In this following, I will introduce three articles, which present us with how we could apply modern technologies to the study of history, giving a chance for us to get a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the history in many aspects. These three articles show us respectively on visualizing the change in the history of English, displaying uncertain historical data in GIS and employing mathematical and statistical methods to analyze Noh texts.

In this first article[1], the author employed mathematical and statistical methods to the study of Noh play. Noh is a classical Japanese stage art consisting of singing and dancing with musical accompaniment. The song lyrics have been documented and are known as Noh texts. In previous studies, Noh text was analyzed by identifying the authors of each Noh play using mathematical methods. In this paper, the author introduces two methods, called Normalized Compression Distance (NCD) method and Phylogenetic approach, which calculates similarity of texts objects by using compression algorithm without any knowledge about the research material.

How do they work in the study of Noh play? It examines Tadanori, one of the 240 existing songs. Eleven different Tadanori manuscripts were transcribed as data files. The size column in Table 1 shows the byte size of the manuscripts. To create text files for NCD, all kanjis were converted to Japanese hiragana using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).NCD was calculated by Hyakka-One, which is a NCD calculating software developed by Fujimoto.

Another approach, the phylogenetic, involves two methods. The first is a method for detecting differences between each group of phrases and calculating distances for a phylogenetic tree. The second, which is used to verify the results of the NCDs, is based on the maximum parsimony method. PAUP*4.0 software was used for this verification in this study. PAUP* is commonly used in cladistics or phylogenetic.

Node names and manuscripts

Table 1: Node names and manuscripts

The second article[2] I would like to introduce is about interpreting the history of Jewish Communities in the Byzantine Empire using GIS.  The application of GIS to humanities research in general, and to the interpretation of historical data in particular, has the potential to develop and answer innovative research questions. The focus of the article is the role of Jews in the Byzantine economy. A robust understanding of geography is important for interpreting trade and therefore the perspective that GIS offers makes it a valuable aid to understanding historical economies. Characteristics of Jewish communities such as their location and date are crucial to evaluating their interaction with the wider economy and are fundamental to the structure of the project’s database. Yet these data are beset by uncertainty, causing significant problems with their representation and interpretation in GIS.

The project has developed a system of symbols that communicates uncertainty in dating and locating Jewish communities. Degree of uncertainty is represented by variation in the transparency of symbols.

The historical study of medieval economies would benefit from greater integration with geography, particularly to develop a detailed understanding of the spatial character of trade. The project’s GIS can help to develop this understanding by disseminating historical data whilst being sensitive to the needs of medieval historians.

The last article[3] will be talked about here explores the way to visualize the history of English. In this paper, the database of the Historical Thesaurus of English is used to visualize change in the history of English, and in particular in the English lexicon.

Instead of using the tree-like system, this paper describes an alternative way of displaying the HT hierarchy, representing each category as a nested rectangle on a plane. This technique produces a ‘tree map’, where each entry in a hierarchy is represented by a rectangle which is large enough to contain smaller rectangles representing its descendants while simultaneously being itself small enough to nest within further rectangles representing its parent categories. In short, a tree map structure takes the organizational chart metaphor of senior is up and replaces it with senior is big. In the ways outlined above, such visual displays of HT data can provide useful entry points to a large, complex lexicographical and lexicological dataset.

After looking through these three cases, where modern technologies are applied in the study of history in various ways. It’s a great trend since advanced technologies and science could greatly help us understand the history of us deeply and comprehensively.

[1] Tracing the history of Noh texts by mathematical methods. Validitating the application of phylogenetic methods to Noh texts

[2] Uncertain Date, Uncertain Place: Interpreting the History of Jewish Communities in the Byzantine Empire using GIS

[3] Patchworks and Field-Boundaries: Visualizing the History of English

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