Research center CERIDAH

Centre for Excellent Research in Digital Arts and Humanities

Prague, Czech Republic

CERIDAH is a unique centre in the Czech academic milieu, dedicated to the development of digital humanities. CERIDAH is designed as a ‘resource focused’ centre that provides researchers with access, through a virtual environment, to an interdisciplinary research infrastructure, and supervises the implementation and dissemination of standards necessary for making data compatible internationally and available for computational processing with the aid of new research tools. CERIDAH currently involves three prominent Czech research institutions: The Czech Academy of Sciences, Charles University in Prague, and Czech Technical University in Prague.

CERIDAH is represented by the Library of the Czech Academy of Sciences, which oversees the development of infrastructures, and by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, which coordinates research activities. The centre brings together 11 institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) representing a wide spectrum of social science and humanities disciplines:

  • Institute of Archaeology of the CAS, Brno
  • Institute of Archaeology of the CAS, Prague
  • Institute of Ethnology of the CAS
  • Institute of History of the CAS
  • Masaryk Institute and Archives of the CAS
  • Institute of Sociology of the CAS
  • Institute of Art History of the CAS
  • Institute of Czech Literature of the CAS
  • Institute of the Czech Language of the CAS
  • Institute of Contemporary History of the CAS
  • Institute of State and Law of the CAS

Partners beyond the Czech Academy of Sciences include the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics at Charles University in Prague, and the Department of Computer Graphics and Interaction at Czech Technical University in Prague. Each partner delegates a small number of selected researchers to participate in CERIDAH’s activities. In addition, the partners make their digital resources and infrastructures available for common research purposes.

CERIDAH’s main international partner is the Cultures of Knowledge project at the University of Oxford (Great Britain). The centre’s particular research activities extend its international cooperation to dozens of other institutions abroad. The Library of the CAS is a partner in the European infrastructure network for digital research DARIAH-EU, and the centre aspires to membership in centerNet, an association of centres for digital humanities.

The research activities of CERIDAH focus on topics in the social and cultural history of the Czech Lands in European context. The centre endeavours not only to seek new answers to traditional questions in Bohemical research, but also to investigate hitherto unexplored perspectives using digital infrastructures and relying on research enhanced by computer technologies and tools. These novel perspectives on Czech history are opening up due to the possibilities of big data, text mining, and digital visualisations of spatial, relational and network data.

CERIDAH’s scientific scope consists of four interdisciplinary and complementary research programmes:

Places

Research projects in the spatial humanities make use of the new opportunities to map spaces and places with the aid of geoinformation systems (GIS) and multi-layered visualisations of landscapes and historical locales.

Examples of research activities include:

  • Transformations of the landscapes of Greater Prague and Brno’s compounds over longue durée
  • Imprints of “mental” structures in the development of the Prague Castle area
  • Geography of law in the Czech Lands

People

Digital biographical, genealogical and prosopographical databases extend the research field of tracing the historical implications of various individuals and social groups. The linked data, for example, allow for the identification of references to important figures in multiple contexts, and the use of big data makes it possible to construct extensive prosopographical ontologies.

Examples of research activities include:

  • The monks in the early modern Czech Lands
  • Political elites in the Czech Lands, Czechoslovakia, and the Czech Republic 1848–2018
  • The professorial staff of the Czech Utraquist university (1458–1621)

Texts

Automated and semi-automated methods of document processing make it possible to investigate unprecedentedly extensive humanities corpora. Distant reading offers new ways of analysing historical documents and literary works using processes such as document clustering and topic extraction.

Examples of research activities include:

  • Versological analysis of Czech poetry of the first half of the 20th century
  • Origins of Czech scientific terminology
  • Digital critical edition of John Amos Comenius’ works

Networks

Relational models of data are useful in making sense of individual and collective agency of real or even fictional (e.g. literary) entities, dissemination of knowledge and innovations, spatial links between historical locales, and in the mapping of lexical and semantic relationships. Network analysis can help to describe, for example, the level of centrality of specific actors or their multiplexity in social networks (i.e. the overlaps of roles in various types of networks).

Examples of research activities include:

  • Mapping the early modern Republic of Letters
  • The spread of Czech phenomenological concepts
  • Lexical relationships in Old Czech

In addition to its research programmes, CERIDAH also sponsors two cross-sectional divisions that provide support to the entire ensemble of researchers. The Division of Infrastructure Maintenance and Tools Development is responsible for linking individual resources (databases, corpora, pictures) and for engineering shared tools in the virtual research environment. The Division of Shared Scientific Activities engages in a critical epistemology of the digital humanities and provides training and education in digital research methods through its DH conservatory, DH observatory, and DH laboratory.