The great pushing hand behind a successful databankReturn
TELDAP e-Newsletter (June, 2012)
The great pushing hand behind a successful databank
TELDAP’s most distinctive feature is that it combines digital information and humanities archives and, during the course of the program, numerous databanks and platforms have been developed. Digitalarchives.tw statistics show that, at present, 680 databanks and platforms that are results of TELDAP are online allowing visitors to browse and search archives.
The establishment of a databank spans digital information and humanities archives and depends on mutual cooperation between personnel from the two sides so that the operation of the databank comes close to the habits and requirements of users. In the process of interaction between the two sides, there is often a lot of interaction, friction and disagreement because those building the system have an information background and don’t fully understand the needs of humanities scholars for statistics, comparison, and analysis. When a scholar of history wants to use a TELDAP databank, he/she might not know which tools have already been developed and can be used to help search for data to allow more complete research and analysis to be carried out. Thus, an important question to be answered during the implementation of the program is how to allow system engineers and scholars in the humanities to communicate fully.
To increase the use rate and influence of databanks and platforms, the Research Center for Digital Humanities of National Taiwan University provides an annual scholarship for graduate students in the humanities to use the databanks it has developed to search for and analyze archives and then write a report on the use situation and their feelings for the reference of the IT personnel who built the system, building a bridge between digital information and humanities archives so that both sides can exchange and interact fully..
During the “Scholarship student results presentation and system display workshop” held at NTU on March 5, 2012, Center Director Xiang Jie said: “The most important objective of building a databank is to take research in Taiwan to a new level. At present, the use of databanks in historiography is limited and I hope this workshop will allow people to realize the big help that the combining of information and content can be to humanities research.”
Director Xiang Jie making a speech
Scholars were also invited to comment on the papers presented by the students, reminding them, from their professional perspective, of the problems and blind spots they might encounter when citing archives. During the workshop, we saw the fun of history flowing through society, the country, individuals and organizations and also saw the function of archives databanks in academic research;the problems that might be encountered when using databanks were also clear to see and were discussed in depth., For example, during the presentation meeting, attendees discussed the definitions and frameworks of statistical data that might cause blind spots and doubts in the use of databank data in research. When using a databank of archives from the Japanese Colonial Period, statistical data use could be confusing because of the difference in the basic definition and framework of special terms. Although databanks make data searching, reading and comparing easier, if they are used carelessly, mistaken interpretation of data can result. Also, in the process of interpreting historical material, to some extent we have a set impression that, if care isn’t taken, can turn cause into effect, allowing statistical data to cause data to be misinterpreted. During the workshop, scholars, on the one hand, told the graduate students where they should be careful and, on the other, reminded them how to use this data to verify our viewpoints and when explaining, to refer to other data, carry out repeated and integrated comparison and checking and reflect on and review past fixed impressions more. These discussions showed us that the starting point of databank use, whether humanities research or the information system framework, both have many places that are worth reviewing and improving.
After the presentation meeting Director Xiang Jie said that, when building databanks in the past, he worried that the design might have oversights and continually engaged in discussions with humanities scholars on the question of what the influence of databanks is on humanities research. Is it good or bad? Take the Forensic Databank, for example, it holds a large amount of data; he asked the professors of the College of Law is they would prefer the data to be turned into graphics that were easy-to-digest visually. However they declined, thinking that oversimplification of this data will substantially increase the chance of error in data interpretation, and that overly simple graphics can easily cause deviation, points that are very interesting. From the angle of science, figures are figures, however, to humanities scholars, the process of the interpretation of data has to be done carefully, step by step and, if they are careless with data, then they may fall into a historical research trap.
As IT continues to develop, systems continually face the challenge of innovation and, in the process of digitization, historical material, through the development of new tools, extends in different directions, like the Taiwan History Digital Library’s progression from data search to concept mining as described by Dr. Du Xie-chang in his presentation, allowing, archives, documents data, and graphics to be meaningfully connected in the system, helping the user to obtain more complete views.
Time was set aside during the March 5 workshop to allow participants to try using the databank and staff kindly told them “If you have any questions, raise your hands and a member of staff will help you.” This showed the devotion of those behind the building of the databank. A databank needs to be used, the opinions of users sought, and it needs to be constantly tested and reviewed to create a positive cycle if it is to be alive and produce beautiful sparks from the meeting of humanities archives and digital information.
Publisher：Fan-Sen Wang, Vice President of Academia Sinica Editor-in-Chief：Zong-Kun Li Publishing Department：Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program, TELDAP Executive Editor：Sub-project: Digital Information - the New and Creative Way of Communicating Mailing Address：The Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
No.130, Sec. 2, Academia Rd., Nangang District, Taipei City 115, Taiwan TEL： (02) 27829555 ext:310 or 183 FAX： (02) 2786-8834 E-mail：email@example.com
Issue：TELDAP e-Newsletter (June, 2012) Publish Date：06/15 /2012 First Issue：02/15 /2007（Published on 15th every 2 months）
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