[MGSA-L] Forum: The Status Quo of Digital Humanities in Greece
Carl Sandler Berkowitz
berkowitz at frontiernet.net
Sun Nov 2 05:59:22 PST 2014
Please excuse any cross-posting. This should be of interest to many on this
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 2:38 PM
Subject: Forum: The Status Quo of Digital Humanities in Greece
From: Helen Gardikas-Katsiadakis <hkatsiad at academyofathens.gr>
Subject: Forum: The Status Quo of Digital Humanities in Greece
Von Helen Gardikas-Katsiadakis, Modern Greek History Research Centre,
Academy of Athens
E-Mail: <hkatsiad at academyofathens.gr>
>From Humanities scholarship to Digital Humanities
Greece has a long tradition in Humanities scholarship. In fact, the
emergence of the discipline was a component of the Greek Enlightenment,
a late 18th century cultural movement that was one of the main factors
that led to the rise of Greek nationalism, the outbreak of the Greek War
of Independence and the foundation of the Greek State in the 1830s.
Since then, Humanities, with a particular emphasis on the Classical
Greek and Byzantine heritage, have been cultivated with the initial aim
of exploring, defining and interpreting Greece's cultural tradition,
social history and national identity. As such, it formed the backbone of
Greek public education. Humanities research and teaching are practiced
mainly but not exclusively at public universities and research
institutions. The collections of the General State Archives, other
public and private archival collections, both in original and in print
form, provide the documentation for a considerable amount of research
With the advent of the digital age and the gradual shift from print to
pixel, the massive wave of digitisation and the explosion of digital
libraries during the first decade of the 21st century, scholars have
increasingly moved toward the use of digitised resources and
computational tools in their scholarship. Libraries, archives, museums
and other cultural heritage institutions have already digitised a
substantial amount of their collections, benefiting from generous
European Union funding. ICT professionals have offered their expertise
in the process, while gradually responding and on several occasions even
anticipating the needs of historians, archaeologists, linguists,
literary scholars, and other researchers for high quality digital
resources and tools. Thus, Digital Humanities, as an independent
discipline, are currently emerging in Greeceand are undertaking
groundbreaking research in the Arts and Humanities. Several research
institutes are actively involved in Digital Humanities projects, mainly
as partners in major European collaborative projects. In addition to
that, the recent initiative for the creation of a national research
infrastructure for the Humanities is expected to increase the impetus in
favour of the development of Digital Humanities by pooling together
domestic centres of technological expertise and by fostering
interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research between higher
education and research institutions in the Humanities and Computer
A historical overview of Digital Technologies in Greece: Digitisation
and Cultural Informatics
Until quite recently, the main research and development interests of
departments and laboratories in Greek institutions focused either on
Cultural Informatics or on developing digitisation methods and
techniques, enabling access, further processing and preservation of
cultural heritage assets. In Greece, as elsewhere, the use of Computer
Science and technology in Arts and Humanities research projects began
with the introduction of software as an auxiliary research tool in
assisting scholars in accessing and interpreting their data. During this
first phase in the 1980s and 1990s, a number of projects were launched
within archives departments of the banking sector, where scholars used
computer technology for a quantitative analysis and interpretation of
large numerical datasets. Demographic, Economic and Social History as
well as Social Sciences were among the disciplines that benefited first
from this technological and methodological innovation.
During this first period, a number of private organisations but most
importantly many state agencies, such as the Ministry of Culture and the
General State Archives, digitised a substantial amount of their
collections. Public research institutions, such as the Academy of
Athensand the National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF)also
digitised some of their holdings. Recently the latter also launched its
scholarly-scientific journals in digital format and open access,
signaling its entry into the era of digital scholarship. Many of the
digitisation projects undertaken in recent years have the support of the
National Documentation Centre (EKT) , which operates within the
framework of the National Hellenic Research Foundation, and acts as the
main national infrastructure agent for scientific documentation, online
information and support services for science, research and technology.
In the early years of the 21st century, earlier methodological and
technological advances in the fields of Cultural Preservation, Museum
Studies, Archiving and Cultural Informatics and the availability of
generous European Union funding for cultural purposes enabled the
launching of large-scale projects for the digitisation of cultural
heritage assets and of resources of interest to Humanities scholars, a
necessary prerequisite for research with Digital Humanities tools.
The emphasis on cultural heritage digital services for use in education
and tourism that dominates the funding of most earlier and current
digitisation projects means that the scholars that benefit most from the
methodologies and technology of the digital age are the communities of
archaeologists, art historians and cultural anthropologists. The
digitisation of large corpora of textual and visual data has enabled
them to access a variety of dispersed and often thitherto unavailable
resources. It also introduced among both resource custodians and
scholars the new principles that Digital Humanities brought to digital
scholarship, those of collaboration, cross-disciplinarity and open
access, with the use of Creative Commons licenses gradually becoming the
Next to the digitisation of corpora, Cultural Informatics is the second
influential aspect of Digital Humanities in Greece. An important
milestone in its history was the founding of the Centre for Cultural
Informatics (CCI), one of the facilities of the Information Systems
Laboratory of the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas
(FORTH), in 1992 by Panos Constantopoulos, at the time Professor at
the Department of Computer Science of the University of Crete.
Constantopoulos also ran an interdepartmental postgraduate Cultural
Informatics programme for a number of years, involving the Departments
of Computer Science and of History and Archaeology, the only such
interdisciplinary programme to have existed in Greek higher education so
far. The mission of the Centre for Cultural Informatics is to pursue a
comprehensive, cross-disciplinary approach toward supporting the entire
lifecycle of cultural information and documentation procedures for the
benefit of the study, preservation and promotion of cultural heritage.
It specialises in semantic interoperability, information management and
integrated access. As one influential project, the CCI developed
National Standards for Cultural Documentation and Interoperability.
At the infrastructure level, the Greek Research & Technology Network
(GRNET S.A.), a state owned company, provides high-quality
Infrastructure and services to the research and educational community of
Greece. The GRNET backbone interconnects more than 100 institutions,
including all universities and many technical and research institutes,
as well as the public Greek School Network and offers pioneering
computing services to its members, academic institutes and researchers.
With the emergence of Digital Humanities as a discipline in its own
right internationally, the establishment of an institution dedicated to
research in the field in Greece became necessary. Thus, in 2007 Panos
Constantopoulos established the Digital Curation Unit (DCU) as a unit
within the Athena Research Centre (ARC). The DCU is the only institution
in the country explicitly dedicated to research and development in the
Digital Humanities and acts as an interdisciplinary research hub in the
fields of digital curation of cultural and scientific heritage,
evidence-based information behaviour and requirements analysis research,
cultural ontologies, semantic metadata integration, and
curation-oriented metadata repositories.
Among the most prominent institutes in the field are the Image, Video
and Multimedia Systems Lab (IVML), of the Institute of Communications
and Computer Systems (ICCS) of the National Technical University of
Athens, which is the leader in the national framework IS-Helleana;
the Computational Intelligence Laboratory (CIL) and the Software and
Knowledge Engineering Laboratory (SKEL) of the National Centre for
Scientific Research Demokritos; the Information Technologies Institute
(ITI) of the Centre of Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH); the
Management of Data, Information, and Knowledge Group of the
Department of Informatics and Telecommunications of the University of
Athens; the Laboratory on Digital Libraries and Electronic
Publishing of the Department of Archives and Library Science of the
Ionian University, established in 1993; and the Institute for Language
and Speech Processing (ILSP / "Athena" R.C.). Moreover, a number of
laboratories at other higher education institutions, such as the
Universities of Patras and of the Aegean, as well as research centers
have also been involved in Humanities related digital technologies
projects over the last years.
While these institutes and laboratories have been and are being engaged
in a number of national initiatives, the main focus of these
institutions lies in collaborating with the major European FP7
transnational projects and in contributing to the Digital Humanities
research agenda. The Digital Curation Unit, for example, participated in
CARARE together with the Greek Ministry of Culture; it was a partner in
EHRI; and it is currently engaged in ARIADNE as is also the Centre for
Cultural Informatics; the Image, Video and Multimedia Systems Lab (IVML)
of the ICCS, the Centre for Cultural Informatics and the Digital
Curation Unit are also involved in Europeana and a number of Europeana
related projects, such as DCA, Linked Heritage, Europeana Cloud, and
The catalyzing initiative at the infrastructure level was the
identification of DARIAH as one of the ESFRI roadmap projects of
Pan-European interest. In 2008 the European Commission provided funding
for the preparatory phase of the project, "Preparing DARIAH". Two Greek
institutions, the Academy of Athens and DCU/ RC Athena, participated in
"Preparing DARIAH". At the national level the ESFRI initiative prompted
the Greek Government to fund the preparatory phases of several national
infrastructure projects. Thus, the DYAS project, a network consisting of
eight higher education and research institutions and coordinated by the
Academy of Athens, came into being. In 2010 and 2011, DYAS prepared a
feasibility study for the development of a national infrastructure for
the Humanities to work in tandem with DARIAH-EU.
Digital History in Greece: Challenges and perspectives
Over the last ten years, libraries, archives, museums and cultural
heritage institutions have taken advantage of the new digital tools and
methods in order to make their material available on the Internet for
research and educational use. The following are a selection of digital
projects that deserve mentioning, as examples that stand out for their
innovative approach, comprehensiveness and popularity among the
community of historians: The Digital Crete project developed by the
Institute for Mediterranean Studies uses the technical expertise of its
Laboratory of Geophysical - Satellite Remote Sensing and
Archaeo-environment. The National Research Foundation Eleftherios K.
Venizelos undertook a virtual reconstruction of Venizelos's private
papers. The Centre for the Greek Language has constructed and provides a
high-quality Greek language portal for textual resources.
Archeiomnimon is both a collections portal and a research tool that
was developed at the General State Archives. Pandektis is a rich
aggregation of primary sources from the collections of the National
Research Foundation. The project Greek Revolution and the Foundation of
the Greek State is a subject-specific collection of resources held
by the Academy of Athens.
In addition to these infrastructural projects, a number of institutions
have published historical research projects online. Among the most
influential are the Survey results in Boubon (Cibyratis, northern
Lycia) , realised by the Institute for Historical Research of the
National Research Foundation; and The Greek Rural Economy during the
Inter-war years, carried out by the Institute for Mediterranean
Digital scholarship is complemented by digital journals, such as
Historein , Mnimon of the Society for the Study of Modern
Hellenism, and the three journals of the Institute of Historical
Research of the National Research Foundation. These are but a few
examples of digital scholarly publications, and many more could be
Thus, the community of Greek historians have made ample use of the
digital tools and digitised sources made available to them. Historians
also use digital platforms as well as social network services to
communicate with their peers nationwide and beyond national boundaries,
to exchange information, data and views. But what the community of
Greek historians are in need of is not only large corpora of high
quality textual resources held in public and private archives and
libraries; they are also in need of data of improved quality. Historians
additionally require advanced digital tools for further data processing
and analysis, to enable them to renew research practices, pose new
questions and derive new answers from older questions. Preparations for
one major project that takes advantage of newly available tools, such as
georeference and visualisation, to advance research across the
Humanities domains are currently under way at the Academy of Athens.
Once completed, the project will render available on the Internet many
of the Academy's research projects completed in earlier years and will
offer a highly developed platform as well as advanced research tools for
use in ongoing and future research.
When Digital Humanities gradually emerged as an independent discipline
in Greece as worldwide, the main Cultural Informatics institutions
existing at the time expanded their interests toward new research areas
and practices. Responding to the new methodological trend, not only the
Digital Curation Unit of RC Athena, but also other ICT research
institutes and laboratories have collaborated with their European
counterparts in developing state-of-the-art methodology, standards,
guidelines and tools for the benefit of Humanities researchers.
However, enabling Humanities scholars to benefit from the current
technological trends in order to renew their research methods, to engage
in collaborative projects and to apply an interdisciplinary approach in
their research has so far met with limited success. With the exception
of linguistics departments, Humanities higher education and research
institutions have proven slow to adopt the new opportunities offered by
the cross-disciplinary approach of Digital Humanities and cases of
successful partnership between Humanities research institutions and
centres of expertise in computer science are few. A number of individual
or small teams of researchers have indeed used digital methods and tools
in Humanities Computing research projects, some of them funded by the
private John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation. On the other hand,
limited national funding opportunities and structural barriers have
impeded major institutions from launching the kind of large-scale
Digital Humanities collaborative interdisciplinary projects that are
necessary for transforming the Humanities research landscape.
The problem, as the research community, both Humanities scholars and ICT
researchers acknowledge, is both structural and educational. Indeed, one
of the most serious challenges facing the evolution of Digital
Humanities in Greece is the fact that digital content is widely
distributed among diverse institutions, including government agencies
and departments, public and private museums, archives and special
libraries, as well as academic and research units and associations, and
that the degree and quality of digitisation varies substantially.
Besides, Digital Humanities as an independent academic discipline is
still absent from Greek higher education curricula and have not
succeeded in effectively engaging the student community.
Digital Humanities Infrastructure: the case of DYAS
The opportunity to address the above-mentioned issues appeared in 2009.
Following a call launched by the Greek General Secretariat for Research
and Technology, the main public funding agency for research and for the
creation of Research Infrastructures, in cooperation with the European
Roadmap for Research Infrastructures by ESFRI, a network of eight
institutions coordinated by the Academy of Athens received funding for a
project entitled "Creating a Research Infrastructure Network for the
Humanities DYAS".The aim of the project, which was completed in
February 2011, was to prepare a feasibility study for the establishment
of a national research infrastructure for Arts and Humanities and a
proposal for a strategy to link the Greek Humanities research community
with DARIAH , the cross-European research infrastructure.
The result was the creation of DYAS. The network aimed at bringing
together higher education institutions, Humanities and ICT research
institutions, and the main government cultural heritage agency, the
Ministry of Culture. It involved a variety of stakeholders - members of
the research community, digital cultural heritage managers and ICT
professionals specializing in the Humanities. Its objective was to
address the needs of two types of stakeholders related to Humanities
research: firstly, the service providers (research and academic
institutions, cultural heritage institutions and technological
institutions). The project enabled them to participate in the planning
of the envisioned infrastructure. Secondly, the research communities who
form the critical mass of users of digital services, were promised
access to the services of the European and national research
infrastructures upon completion. The DYAS network assembled many of the
major Digital Humanities institutions in Greece: the Academy of Athens
as coordinator, the Digital Curation Unit/ Research Centre Athena, the
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the National Research
Foundation, the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, the
Directorate of the National Archive of Monuments/ Hellenic Ministry of
Culture and Tourism, the Athens School of Fine Arts, and the Image,
Video and Intelligent Multimedia Systems Lab/ National Technical
University of Athens.
The main outcome of the preparatory project was a feasibility study
concerning the creation of a national research infrastructure, whose
main objectives are to support digitally enabled Humanities research in
Greece and to provide linkages with the European Research
Infrastructure, DARIAH. The feasibility study was completed in February
2011 and combined a survey of the current state of affairs in Greece in
the field of Humanities in general and Digital Humanities in particular,
and a proposal for the enhancement of Digital Humanities research in
Greece. The survey consisted of an assessment of the current state of
Humanities research, information resources, institutions and
infrastructures, of the technological expertise of the ICT institutions
and of national policies directly or indirectly involved in the support
of research in the Humanities. The proposal consisted of a detailed
recommendation for engaging the Greek research community in the European
research infrastructure DARIAH and for expanding the role of the network
DYAS by creating a national infrastructure to enhance digital research
in the Humanities. Meanwhile, in November 2010, the Greek General
Secretariat for Research and Technology had signed a Memorandum of
Understanding formally supporting the participation of Greece in
DARIAH-EU and Greece became a founding member of DARIAH ERIC. As
DARIAH-EU moved from the preparatory phase toward the construction of
the infrastructure, the DYAS network, too, moved from the completion of
the infrastructure feasibility study to the construction of the Greek
In May 2013, following a call launched in July 2012 and a successful
evaluation of its proposal, the DYAS network received funding to
construct a Greek national research infrastructure for the Humanities,
DARIAH-GR. The current project, scheduled to end in September 2015, will
deliver the following sets of tasks/deliverables grouped into five
1. Data sharing: comprehensive registries of digital resources
(institutions, individuals, data, metadata, ontologies, vocabularies and
2. Supporting the development of digital resources: tools and best
practice guidelines for the development of digital resources (data
collection development, metadata development, ensuring metadata quality,
vocabulary development, standards and best practices, intellectual
property management, human resources development, content management/
3. Networking, education, and capacity building: information and
advocacy, networking activities (physical and virtual, including
events), competence access services, researcher residency scheme, summer
courses, educational and training materials and curricula, industry
internships and matching activities.
4. DARIAH services: coordination with DARIAH-EU ERIC activities, access
management to all DARIAH-EU services; and
5. Digital Humanities Observatory: evidence-based research on digitally
driven Humanities in Greece and on Greek studies, monitoring, outreach
and dissemination activities, physical as well as virtual.
As work on the project progresses, its partners are already
collaborating with DARIAH-EU in a number of humanities research related
activities, while the project's portal has been redesigned to meet the
needs of the infrastructure under construction.
A realistic vision for Digital Humanities in Greece
The DARIAH-GR Research Infrastructure, developed by the DYAS network,
builds on the achievements and best practice approaches developed by
DARIAH-EU, the leading Europe-wide digital infrastructure in the Arts
and Humanities, with which it is affiliated, leveraging the experience
of other DARIAH-related national digital infrastructure projects, and
adapting it to the on-the-ground situation in Greece.
The main concept of DARIAH-GR is that of a hybrid-virtual distributed
infrastructure, bringing together the strengths and capacities of
leading research, academic, and collection custodian institutions
through a carefully defined, lightweight layer of services, tools and
activities complementing, rather than attempting to displace or
replicate prior investments and capabilities. A key premise adopted by
the DYAS network, fully substantiated by the DYAS feasibility study, is
that Greek Arts and Humanities data and content resources are as a rule
thematically organized, widely distributed, under the custodianship and
curation of diverse institutions, including government agencies and
departments, public and private museums, archives and special libraries,
as well as academic and research units, associations, research projects,
and other actors, and displaying a diverse degree of digitisation. Given
the constitution of such information and Humanities research practices,
established legal and institutional constraints, and curation and
long-term sustainability considerations, primary data and content is to
remain, in digital form, with holding institutions. The mission of the
DARIAH-GR research infrastructure is therefore seen as follows:
"[T]o provide the Greek Arts and Humanities, and Greek studies, research
communities worldwide with effective, comprehensive and sustainable
capability to discover, access, integrate, analyse, process, curate and
disseminate Greek Arts and Humanities data and information resources,
through a concerted plan of virtual services and tools, and hybrid
(combined virtual and physical) activities, integrating and running on
top of existing primary information systems, collections and
infrastructures, and leveraging two-way integration and synergies with
the European Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and
DARIAH-GR services will take advantage of the domain-neutral
computational and data management cloud infrastructure being developed
by GRNET and Athena RC in order to optimise cost, concentrating
exclusively on catering for domain-specific requirements.
The vision DYAS aspires to is, on the one hand, to empower the Greek
Arts and Humanities research community to develop and adopt best
practices in the use of digital technologies for research purposes, and
thus participate fully and equally in the European research area. On the
other hand, it is to assure long-term sustainability, long-term
preservation, and access to the valuable assets of Arts and Humanities
research data and content held by diverse institutions and actors in
Greece for the advancement of scholarly-scientific knowledge, learning,
and public enlightenment.
The DYAS network is committed to advocating for improving the
accessibility and quality of information, for increasing digital
literacy among Humanities scholars and for embedding it within
Humanities curricula in higher education. In the short term, historians
and other Humanities scholars will profit from workshops and other
similar activities organized by the DYAS network and aiming to
familiarize them with digital methods and tools and to encourage them to
follow best practices and standards in their projects. The overall aim
remains to revolutionise the landscape of Humanities research by
integrating national and transnational experience in Digital Humanities
into current research practice.
 I wish to thank Anna-Maria Sichani for her invaluable help in
preparing this paper.
 In Greek the English language term is used untranslated to describe
the discipline for lack - until now - of an accurate rendition.
 <http://www.academyofathens.gr/echome.asp?lang=2> (29.07.2014).
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 <http://www.ilsp.gr/> (29.07.2014).
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 Mostly, Greek historians use personal webpages, for instance that
of Professor Antonis Liakos, lists such as the Group for the Study of
History and Society OMIK, forums like the Social History Forum, academic
community platforms like Academia.edu, blogs, such as arthrografein and
the more specialised History of Health Net and history specific Facebook
and Twitter accounts.
 <http://www.latsis-foundation.org/> (29.07.2014).
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 <http://www.dariah.eu/> (29.07.2014).
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