Symposium J-11 Cooking with the Digial Humanities
On the 19th of May morning, it will be time to speak about Digital Humanities. Without those nolvelties the CoReMA project could not have taken place! We will be speaking about “Cooking with the Digital Humanities”
Middle Ages culinary manuscripts will be available on line on a Scientific Digital Edition thank’s to the CoReMA research program.
The aim of this paper is to answer these two questions: What is a Scientific Digital Edition? How to make a Scientific Digital Edition of Middle Ages cooking recipes?
The CoReMA research program deal with manuscripts in several languages: Old French, Latin, Old German. Furthermore, the particular lexicon of cookbooks requires a specific encoding procedure. The CoReMa’s French team established a particular workflow for the online publication of the documents in Old French and Latin by paying attention to the specificity of a culinary ontology, which requires a reasoned encoding. In fact the online Scientific Digital Edition of the manuscripts allows to show the underlying richness in each manuscript and to highlight the specificity of the culinary lexicon.
The semantic annotation of the recipe texts in a XML file forms the basis for their comparison in the CoReMa project. Although they are handed down in different languages and dialects (e.g. Early New High German, Middle French, Medieval Latin) the transmitted semantic values can be tagged by anyone capable of understanding the text, thus making them machine-readable.
The semantic model is designed to accommodate all variations even beyond the project’s text corpus. By considering potential future use, the annotation of any recipe written during any time period and located in any geographical region is possible, enabling comparative analysis for any text corpus potentially covering a wide range of languages, time periods or regions.
During design and further expansion of the model, elements from the TEI namespace were used wherever possible to accommodate relevant conventions in the DH community. But because thorough annotation of recipe texts cannot yet be achieved by using only TEI conform elements, the semantic model also includes additional ones, specifically belonging to the spheres of cooking and conservation as well as dietetics, religion and culture. This broad approach is chosen to provide a comprehensive model, suitable to the various requirements that arise during the annotation of cooking recipes. The practical usage of the model during the CoReMa project work allows for first-hand experience as impracticalities or need for adaption are noticed quickly and changes can be implemented accordingly and promptly.
The core of CoReMA’s digital research strategy is the Semantic Web and the idea of Linked Open Data. We are in the comfortable position within the Humanities that we are mainly dealing with food ingredients i.e. animals, plants and fungi, all fields of research that are provided with a sophisticated amount of already established ontologies and Linked Data including the general knowledge bases of Wikidata and DBPedia. In the digital research approach we rely – to a large extent – on the occurrence of ingredients, preparation instructions and time, tools, serving suggestions and medicinal, cultural as well as religious implications in the texts. The sheer quantity of semantics within one historic recipe shows how complex a semantic annotation of these texts is, leaving apart all philological observations that can be found in the material. Besides the ability to find links between resources that were not known before, a main argument for the decision to put Semantic Web technologies at the core of the project was the ability to work outside of language barriers. Through the use of concepts in the sense of a notion, an idea rather than a term we are trying to overcome historical and language constraints. For this reason we needed to introduce a workflow that reflects the recipes’ philological and semantic complexity. A precompiled list of medieval plant names and their translations to modern English and German as well as their medieval variant dictions collected by Helmut W. Klug, the principal researcher of the Austrian part of CoReMa, gave us the opportunity to start with a (semi)automated alignment of Wikidata concepts with the Reconciliation Service API provided by OpenRefine. Once each term has a concept connected with it, these concepts are used to enrich the ingredients within the actual recipe texts in the TEI documents. However, as stated above, a crucial point of this process is the human interpretation of the enriched entities and the decision for a concept. Therefore the auto alignment procedure can only be viewed as a means to an end.
Treating the data this way we are able to store it in a so-called Triple Store, which gives us the opportunity to query the data with SPARQL and, most importantly, connect other Linked Data at the moment of the query and include this data in the result sets. Consequently we are able to ask questions not only to CoReMA’s internal knowledge base but also to Wikidata, FoodON or the Sifter to just name a few of many possible datasets connected to the Linked Open Data Cloud. The big goal of creating new knowledge by connecting already established data can thus be reached.
 https://thesifter.org/ plans to publish its data as Linked Open Data soon
 For an overview of ontologies covering these topics see http://www.ontobee.org/, http://aims.fao.org/, https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/, https://agclass.nal.usda.gov/about.shtml, http://zbw.eu/stw/version/latest/thsys/70498/about.de.html all of which are connected to the Linked Open Data Cloud by proving its data in one or more serializations of OWL and/or RDF(S).