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How Historians and Detectives Can Benefit from a Semantic Graph Database

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kalby Angela Guess

Max Kalus recently wrote in OpenSource.com, “Traditionally, historians (and detectives) have kept such information in their heads and on note cards, crumpled pieces of paper, glossed entries of copied books, and the like. Historical researchers are starting to acknowledge that computers might be around long enough to prove they are not a short-lived phenomenon (to them, short-term means 100 years or less), and the emergence of digital humanities as a separate field of research proves this. Segrada is a piece of open source software that allows historians (and detectives) to keep track of their data. Unlike wikis or archival databases, its focus lies on information and interrelations within it. Pieces of information might represent persons, places, things, or concepts. These ‘nodes’ can be bidirectionally connected with each other to semantically represent friendship, blood relation, whereabouts, authorship, and so on. Hence the term ‘semantic graph database,’ since information can be displayed as a graph of semantically connected nodes.”

He goes on, “The above image suggests how such a historical semantic network might look like. There are several different types of nodes representing locations and persons. Nodes are connected by graphs that can be easily grasped by a human reader. The graphs are bi-directional, meaning they can be interpreted in both directions. The figure also depicts dates, some of which are partial (just years, for example). Segrada supports partial and fuzzy dates, as well as tags and geographic references. What the figure does not show is the textual description of nodes and relation, or source references that save the origin of the information. These features are supported by the databases. Moreover, files can be uploaded into the database and full-text indexed if needed. This makes it possible to not only search the database contents, but referenced texts as well.”

Read more here.

photo credit: Max Kalus

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