A Digital Humanist – “So, what is it that you do exactly?”

I like the term “Digital Humanist”. Sure, it confuses people when you introduce yourself as a digital humanist if they’ve never heard the term before (and many people I talk to haven’t), and I usually get the question: “So, what is it that you do exactly?”

It’s a great question. Not one that’s easily answered, of course, and I certainly don’t want to put people into a deep slumber if I try.

The short answer is that I use technology to access a dead language.

A longer answer is that I’ve spent the past 6 1/2 years working on the design and development of  The Oxford Corpus of Old Japanese (OCOJ; http://vsarpj.orinst.ox.ac.uk/corpus/), which is a syntactically parsed corpus of all extant Old Japanese texts. The corpus is tagged in XML following the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). Having a corpus like this drastically improves the way data can be accessed and analysed. There have already been a few dissertations and several articles written using this resource. I’m also involved with a few research groups who want to incorporate data from the OCOJ in their diachronic projects.

I should also mention that being able to do research in this way is really fun.

I’ll post several examples of the kinds of things that can be quickly examined using a corpus during the Day of Digital Humanities.

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