Information Access Seminar

Ancient Families, Modern Tools: Berkeley Prosopography Services

Friday, October 12, 2012
3:10 pm to 5:00 pm
Laurie Pearce, Patrick Schmitz, and Davide Semenzin

Berkeley Prosopography Services (BPS) is a set of services for prosopographic analysis developed at Berkeley in response to historians' needs to mine prosopographic data from text corpora, supporting study of societal relations among documented individuals. BPS supersedes the limitations of traditional pen-and-paper research by providing researchers with a flexible and intuitive corpus-based toolset for data processing, analysis, and visualization. From its inception, BPS was required to be generalizable, scalable, corpus agnostic, extensible, and universally accessible. BPS' innovative and unique contribution as a research tool is in the support for the promulgation and exploration of counterfactual assertions within the context of corpora curated by domain-experts, while preserving domain integrity and tracking intellectual contribution and authority. Challenges encountered in BPS development include: translating the high-level requirements of humanities researchers into technically-sound designs, abstract modeling of probabilistic networks, and deployment of the tools as reusable web-services.

Laurie Pearce is lecturer in Assyriology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Berkeley. She specializes in the social and economic history of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in the late first millennium BCE. The legal texts from Hellenistic Uruk, which serve as the development and demonstrator corpus for Berkeley Prosopography Services, are the core component of her project Hellenistic Babylonia: Texts, Images and Names, a component of the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus.

Patrick Schmitz is a semantic services architect and manager of the IST Research Technologies Architecture and Design group at UC Berkeley, where he focuses on bringing semantic intelligence to cultural heritage communities. He is the technical lead for the CollectionSpace project and senior architect on Project Bamboo and was previously in research groups at Microsoft, Yahoo!, and CWI in Amsterdam. He has extensive experience as system architect and software developer on multimedia and information management platforms, has co-founded several tech startups, and is active in W3C working groups. He has a B.A. in computer science and a master's in information management and systems from UC Berkeley, and is also a lecturer in the I School faculty.

Davide Semenzin is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley from the Department of Computing Sciences of Utrecht University (the Netherlands). He holds a B.Sc. in computer science from Padua University (Italy) and is currently working with Berkeley Prosopography Services as his master's thesis project. His areas of focus include theoretical computer science, information theory, complexity theory, software business and engineering, digital humanities, social network analysis, and data visualization.

Last updated:

March 26, 2015