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Poster: Constructing DARIAH—the e-Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities

Blanke, Tobias, King's College London, tobias.blanke@kcl.ac.uk

Fritze, Christiane, fritze@sub.uni-goettingen.de State and University Library Goettingen,

Romary, Laurent, laurent.romary@inria.fr INRIA,


The poster will elicit our vision for the DARIAH infrastructure and the first steps towards its implementation. DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities; http://www.dariah.eu) is a European project funded under the ESFRI programme (http://cordis.europa.eu/esfri/), which aims to design a virtual bridge between various humanities and arts resources across Europe. DARIAH is currently in its transition from the preparatory phase to the construction phase, which will be completed by the establishment of the legal framework DARIAH ERIC by end of 2011.

Just like astronomers now require a virtual observatory to study the stars and other distant objects in the galaxy on the basis of a wide variety of existing observations, researchers in the arts and humanities need a digital infrastructure to bring together and collaboratively work with dispersed scholarly resources (e.g. digital content, services, methodologies). DARIAH will be such an infrastructure with a European dimension to support research practitioners at all levels, from beginners through to those employing advanced techniques and methodologies. The grand vision for DARIAH is to facilitate long-term access to, and re-use of, all European arts and humanities digital research data and primary sources.

A typical use case is elicited below (the poster will present several of such scenarios taken from actual e-humanists Europe-wide)

The Digital Postgraduate

Daniela is a postgraduate researcher (PhD candidate) in material culture at a Greek university. She holds a first degree in classical archaeology and a Master's in anthropology. Daniela uses ICT tools very efficiently and considers them vital for her research. She is currently researching material culture and its relationship to the perception of space and landscape in an area of northern Greece. Her topic lies within the areas of archaeology and cultural anthropology; therefore, Daniela's sources include artefacts, interviews with local people, and extensive visual material. As her work is largely interdisciplinary in nature, there is a propensity for making fortuitous discoveries while looking for something unrelated; serendipity is very important in her work. This approach means that she needs to login to different services simultaneously—even login multiple times a day if disconnected—and she must keep multiple open windows in her browser. Furthermore, she must be able to evaluate the authenticity and value of any item she discovers. Thanks to the technical environment developed in the VCCe-Infrastructure of DARIAH, Daniela benefits from both a single sign-on environment for accessing all the necessary digital assets,as well as a virtual portfolio where she can gather all selected sources. The metadata and provenance data associated with an item allows her to evaluate the authenticity and value of an asset, and to link to related items (e.g. other sources for the same asset, other formats, research addressing that asset) once she has found something of interest. From this portfolio, she can publish geographical views on her data, which she exchanges and discusses with other colleagues in Europe.

The mission of DARIAH is to enhance and support digitally-enabled research across the humanities and arts. DARIAH aims to develop and maintain an infrastructure in support of ICT-based research practices and is working with communities of practice to:

  • Explore and apply ICT-based methods and tools to enable new research questions to be asked and old questions to be posed in new ways;
  • Improve research opportunities and outcomes through linking distributed digital source materials of many kinds
  • Exchange knowledge, expertise, methodologies and practices across domains and disciplines.
  • DARIAH is also not singly discipline-focused; instead DARIAH seeks to support all disciplines across the humanities, encouraging interdisciplinarity and the exploration and sharing of content, tools and methods. Research practice in the arts and humanities is about criticism and meaning, interpretation and re-interpretation, and about extracting meaning from often incomplete and fuzzy data. It requires researchers to seek out a wide range of primary and secondary sources, to organise and structure these, to analyse and interpret them, and to publish the results. In this era of pervasive broadband connectivity, the way in which these processes are undertaken is changing, and in some cases, the processes themselves are changing. Increasingly, research practitioners are using the power of the internet, new tools, and the range of digital information that is available to them to create their own personal network spaces, to digitally publish highly interactive, multimedia-themed collections (critical editions) of research information and knowledge, and to visualise and reconceptualise their interpretations and analysis. New forms of collaboration are also emerging as the tools available encourage and enable ‘web-working’ across the globe.

    Hence the key strategic aim of DARIAH is to support researchers in the creation and use of research data and tools, and to apply and use ICT-enabled methods to analyse and interpret digital source materials.

    DARIAH will be an infrastructure to promote, support, and advance research in the digital humanities. Digital humanities is a long-established research field, with its origins in the Forties of the last century. Over the past 60 years it has progressed and a large variety of digital humanities centres and related organizations have developed. However, we do not perceive the digital humanities to be a closed field of existing centres but rather an open and developing research environment. Everybody interested in using digital means for arts and humanities research is part of the DARIAH community of practice. In this view, the DARIAH infrastructure would be a connected network of people, information, tools and methodologies for investigating, exploring and supporting work across the broad spectrum of the digital humanities.

    The DARIAH network will be designed to be as a decentralised network of competency centres (VCC – Virtual Competency Centres), which will allow services to stay close to end-users (researchers) either geographically or thematically. Common technologies (e.g. for authentication or federation of archive contents) and good practices (standardised formats, digital assets management workflows) will ensure coherence across the support services offered by the competency centres.

    When DARIAH is operational after the construction phase, technical products by DARIAH will be manifold:

  • technological services and tutorials that help existing humanities data archives to link their systems into the DARIAH network;
  • a package of software and consultancy/training, which supports emerging data centres in establishing their own technology environment quickly;
  • an interoperability layer that will connect data centres;
  • means of linking into DARIAH for those countries/disciplines that do not yet have e-humanities infrastructure and cannot afford it in the near future;
  • best practices and guidelines for individual researchers that foster data interoperability and preservation across the DARIAH network;
  • a network of expertise linking each scholar to an active and vibrant community of international digital humanists.
  • DARIAH will make an important contribution towards e-humanities, providing additional services to analyse, annotate and share arts and humanities research activities. DARIAH will stimulate and provide expertise on all aspects of e-humanities, from best practices for digitisation to metadata standards and advice on analysis methods and systems.

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