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Palimpsest: improving assisted curation of loco-specific literature

Alex, Beatrice; Grover, Claire; Oberlander, Jon; Thomson, Tara; Anderson, Miranda; Loxley, James; Hinrichs, Uta; Zhou, Ke


Beatrice Alex

Claire Grover

Jon Oberlander

Tara Thomson

Miranda Anderson

James Loxley

Uta Hinrichs

Assistant Professor


Text mining and information visualization techniques applied to large-scale historical and literary document collections have enabled new types of humanities research. The assumption behind such efforts is often that trends will emerge from the analysis despite errors for individual data points and that noise will be dominated by the signal in the data. However, for some text analysis tasks, the technology is unable to perform as well as domain experts, perhaps because it does not have sufficient world knowledge or metadata available. Yet, the advantage of language processing technology is that it can process at scale, even if not perfectly accurately. Geo-locating literary works is one example where human expert knowledge is invaluable when it comes to distinguishing between candidate works. This was the underlying assumption in Palimpsest, an interdisciplinary digital humanities research project on mining literary Edinburgh. From the outset, the project adopted an assisted curation process whereby the automatic processing of large data collections was combined with manual checking to identify literary works set in Edinburgh. In this article, we introduce the assisted curation process and evaluate how the feedback from literary scholars helped to improve the technology, thereby highlighting the importance of placing humanities research at the core of digital humanities projects.


Alex, B., Grover, C., Oberlander, J., Thomson, T., Anderson, M., Loxley, J., …Zhou, K. (2017). Palimpsest: improving assisted curation of loco-specific literature. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 32(Supp 1), Article i4-i16.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 7, 2016
Online Publication Date Nov 7, 2016
Publication Date Apr 1, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 2, 2017
Journal Digital Scholarship in the Humanities
Print ISSN 2055-7671
Electronic ISSN 2055-768X
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue Supp 1
Article Number i4-i16
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Oct 2, 2017

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