Proseminar: Digital Tools for Classicists (February 2018)

At the 2018 AIA/SCS Annual Meeting in Boston, there was a day-long workshop entitled Ancient MakerSpaces (#AncMakers), organized by Patrick Burns of ISAW (@diyclassics). The workshop was, as described by Pat in a tweet, “designed to introduce participants to and [get] them started with digital resources & methods in classics/archaeology/etc. as well as to showcase solid scholarship in this area.” There was also a pre-AIA/SCS day-long workshop at Tufts on the Open Greek and Latin project which also showcased a lot of interesting scholarship and digital tools. There were a number of awesome tools and reading/learning environments showcased each day to which we wanted to bring your attention for use in your own pedagogy or scholarship.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as there were many other projects and environments highlighted, including:

  1. the LACE OCR project (see Daniel’s Tweet thread here),
  2. the Ugarit Translation Aligner tool,
  3. the new and improved Logeion web and app interfaces (see Daniel’s Tweet thread here),
  4. the Homer Multitext Project, now coming up on a full first edition of the Venetus A,
  5. the new and improved Alpheios suite of reading tools,
  6. ToPan and Melete, topic modeling tools,
  7. OpenARCHEM, a repository for data for archaeometry (the study of archaeological material),
  8. and the suite of lexicographical tools at the Classical Language Toolkit.

Time precludes us from going into detail about these, but feel free to follow the links and ask us questions about them; if we don’t know the answers, we can point you towards those who do.

The tools that we are about to discuss are, we feel, useful for the types of scholarship and courses that BU Classics currently generates and offers. Some (Scaife, Hedera, QCrit) are not yet publicly available but will be soon. The other three (The Bridge, Pleaides/QGIS, and WIRE) are databases and resources available to use (and contribute to!) right now.

Each tool in the following list will be the subject of a more detailed write-up in forthcoming blog posts.

1. Scaife Viewer / Perseus 5.0

The Perseus Project needs no introduction, but James Tauber and his web development company Eldarion have been hired to create the next version, updating its decade plus old infrastructure and infusing it with exciting new tools. Among these tools are hotlinks to highlighted passages, lemmata search tools, morphology paradigm generation (e.g., all forms of a word found in a certain text). See Daniel’s Tweet thread from the Scaife presentation at the OGL Workshop at Tufts (1/3/18) here.

2. The Bridge

The Bridge under the direction of Bret Mulligan generates vocabulary lists for numerous Latin and Greek texts and textbooks. You can set filters, like chapter or line numbers, and parameters to display along with the definitions, like how often a word appears, when it first appears, what part of speech it is, etc. The goal is to support a student’s acquisition of necessary vocabulary by bridging what the student knows to what the student doesn’t know. See Daniel’s Tweet thread here.

3. Hedera

Hedera analyzes a passage of Latin to determine its appropriateness for a student’s current reading and vocabulary level. It can output graphs / percentages showing how far a student needs to go in terms of vocabulary commitment and comprehension. Eventual goals include the generation of a passage’s lemmata and automatic recommendation of passages appropriate to reading level. See Daniel’s Tweet thread here.

4. WIRE: Women in the Roman East Project

WIRE is a database of material culture relating to the lived experiences of ancient women in the Roman Near East; so, you’ll find, e.g., coins and epitaphs depicting average women up to empresses, but you won’t find depictions of goddesses. Each object is tagged with metadata specific to the medium (e.g., portrait bust, coin) to make it easier to search and find what you’re looking for. The goal is to recover lost or non-prominent voices from the past through material culture. See Daniel’s Tweet thread here.

5. Quantitative Criticism Lab (University of Texas - Austin)

Designed by UT-Austin’s Quantitative Criticism Lab, this stylometric tool allows the user to analyze Latin texts from Ennius to Neo-Latin based on twenty-nine stylistic criteria — use of personal pronouns, mean sentence length, and frequency of relative clauses, to name a few. The user can choose any mixture of authors, works, and sections from the tool’s extensive text list, select specific stylistic crtiteria, and receive downloadable data tables and graphs. In the future, the user will be able to load their own texts and compare with items from the database on stylometric grounds. See Daniel’s Tweet thread here and Ryan’s Tweet thread here.

6. Pleiades and ToposText

Pleiades is a database of physical sites in the ancient world that gives location information and suggested ancient texts and modern scholarly citations. You can export any number of place citations, up to all 35,459 entries in the database, and represent them pictorally through a GIS reader. Other ways to use it include social network analyses and visualizations of real-life connections, like hostile parties during the Peloponnesian War. Many geographic projects online utilize Pleaides data, like ToposText, which keys a gazeteer of ancient place names to mentions in ancient texts. See Daniel’s Tweet thread here.