Recap of SW4SH 2015

1st June 2015, Portoroz, Slovenia




Best paper

SemanticHPST: applying semantic web principles and technologies to the history and philosophy of science and technology
Olivier Bruneau, Serge Garlatti, Muriel Guedj, Sylvain Laubé and Jean Lieber


Keynote speakers

University of Amsterdam
« Lovejoy’s dream – or how to do history of ideas computationally in a methodologically sound way »

Summary :

History of ideas is a discipline largely founded by Arthur O. Lovejoy in the early twentieth century. Lovejoy characterized it as being concerned with unit-ideas, entities that retain their meaning through time and can therefore be traced in various contexts, that is, periods, intellectual settings, and disciplinary fields (Lovejoy 1936: 3-7, 15).

Now suppose a historian of ideas wants to trace an idea such as a truth through two-thousand years. According to WorldCat, 17,843,437 books have been published only between 1700 and 1900. How is a historian of ideas even supposed to think that such quantities of text can be studied with the historian’s traditional method of investigation, namely close reading on one’s own?

One might think that with today’s digital means, such a study is finally possible. However, things are not that simple. First, we are far from the universal corpus we should be able to rely on for such an enterprise. Second, even with a universal corpus at our disposal, generic, simple and shallow bottom-up analyses of lots of diverse, ‘long’ and complex data is going to fail. For in a field such as this, feeding a computer masses of diverse and complex texts can only yield masses of unorganized details. Third, even if it were possible to make sense of such results computationally, there are fundamental problems with the very method of the history of ideas. The notion of one idea traceable through centuries of thought is illusory: for ideas cannot be studied in isolation from their context, and their meaning is in constant flux (Skinner 2002).

In this talk I elucidate a specific proposal for concept modelling to solve in particular the last two problems. I also show in what way my proposal is able to give a theoretical foundation to answering the need for dynamic ontologies, so that a computational turn can be effectively taken to history of ideas and related disciplines.

(based on joint work with Hein van den Berg)


Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
« Linked Data for Digital History »

Summary :

With the increasing popularity of digital humanities, researchers seek more (international and cross-domain) collaboration. Integrating humanities datasets becomes more important to these researchers. This is very much prevalent in historical research and to further the digital history agenda, sharing data and knowledge is key. Semantic Web technologies present good opportunities to support historians in this aspect.

I will argue that in order for digital history to become a lasting multidisciplinary field of research rather than a popular buzzword, we need to stop building specific tools and visualizations based on requirements provided by historians. Rather, we should develop generic methodologies for modelling, linking and providing access to historical data. Properly represented and accessible data becomes more valuable over time, whereas specific analysis tools are hard to develop, combine maintain.

This means that historians will need to be able to 1) browse heterogeneous datasets in a convenient way to get an intuition of the character and anomalies of the (linked) data;  2) perform arbitrary queries to retrieve results relevant to their research questions; 3) verify the veracity of query results, by following provenance links to original material and 4) analyze the data with their tool of preference.

For historical researchers and computer scientist to successfully co-develop these methodologies computer scientists will need to understand the historical science methods and historians will need to learn how to perform these queries. Under those conditions, the use of Semantic Web technologies presents a real next step for historical research.

I will discuss a number of recent collaborations between computer scientists and historians to investigate their value for digital history. I will present projects that tackle different aspects of the historical science agenda, including the Dutch Ships and Sailors and BiographyNet projects on representing and linking heterogeneous datasets and the DIVE project on browsing linked media collections.


Arnaud Zucker, Isabelle Draelants, Catherine Faron Zucker, Alexandre Monnin

INVITED TALK: Lovejoy’s dream – or how to do history of ideas computationally in a methodologically sound way
Arianna Betti

Studying the History of Pre-Modern Zoology with Linked Data and Vocabularies
Molka Tounsi, Catherine Faron Zucker, Arnaud Zucker, Serena Villata and Elena Cabrio

Coffee break

Towards a Shared Reference Thesaurus for Studies on History of Zoology, Archaeozoology and Conservation Biology
Cécile Callou, Franck Michel, Catherine Faron-Zucker, Chloé Martin and Johan Montagnat

What terms to express the categories in sciences of nature in the Dictionary of medieval scientific French?
Cécile Rochelois and Fabrice Issac

Biblissima’s Prototype on Medieval Manuscript Illuminations and their Context
Stefanie Gehrke, Eduard Frunzeanu, Pauline Charbonnier and Marie Muffat


INVITED TALK: Linked Data for Digital History
Victor de Boer

SemanticHPST: applying semantic web principles and technologies to the history and philosophy of science and technology
Olivier Bruneau, Serge Garlatti, Muriel Guedj, Sylvain Laubé and Jean Lieber

Coffee break

Semantic Web based Named Entity Linking for digital humanities and heritage texts
Francesca Frontini, Carmen Brando and Jean-Gabriel Ganascia

Semantic Web for BIBLIMOS
Beatrice Bouchou Markhoff, Sophie Caratini, Francesco Correale, Mohamed Lamine Diakité and Adel Ghamnia

Semiotic Issues and Perspectives on Modeling Cultural Artifacts : Revisiting 1970’s French criticisms on ‘New archaeologies’
Aurélien Bénel

Towards a Better Understanding of Critiques about Ancient Texts using Argumentation
Serena Villata and Arnaud Zucker

Arnaud Zucker, Isabelle Draelants, Catherine Faron Zucker, Alexandre Monnin


Workshop organizers


Programme committee

  • Baudouin Van Den Abeele, Univ. catholique de Louvain, Belgique
  • Annetta Alexandridis, Univ. of Cornell, USA
  • Aurélien Bénel, UTT, Univ. de Technologie de Troyes, France
  • Aurélien Berra, Univ. Paris 10, Nanterre, France
  • Arianna Betti, Univ. of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Gregory Crane, Tufts Univ., USA
  • Kai Eckert, Univ. Mannheim, Germany
  • Jean-Gabriel Ganascia, Univ. Paris 6, France
  • Elizabeth MacDonald, Programme Coordinator for Biblissima, Paris
  • Albert Meroño Peñuela, VU Univ. Amsterdam and KNAW, Netherlands
  • Dominique Ritze, Univ. of Mannheim, Germany
  • Andrea Tettamanzi, Univ. Nice Sophia Antipolis, France