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Digital Sinology Survey

Many Sinologists are working on interesting digital projects or using digital resources to improve the quality of their research. Unfortunately, the internet bibliographies for finding these materials are quickly out of date and I often meet graduate students unaware of useful and accurate resources available in digital form.

I have sent a brief survey to all the China scholars I am familiar with who use technology heavily in their research. I hope that we can pool knowledge of available resources, share together our current projects and ideas, and identify common needs that might become future projects.

If you have a scholarly interest in pre-modern China, use or make digital resources, and haven’t received an email already, please answer these questions and post them on your own site or email me to have them posted here.

In fairness then, I will go first:

1. Can you tell us a bit about your education and research interests?

I graduated in Asian Studies from George Washington University in 2006. I was unhappy with my prospects in the civil service before meeting Professor Jonathon Chaves, who taught me to love Chinese poetry. After living in Taiwan in 2006/7, this year I began my MA in Chinese Literature at the University of Washington. I am currently working under Professor David Knechtges on a thesis concerning the Mid-Tang poet Bao Rong.

2. What projects are you currently working on? What software or technology do you use?

I want to create useful, scholarly digital texts. My last project, Critex, was an attempt to create an easy-to-use critical edition word processor. Unfortunately, creating a general-purpose editor for all the myriad combinations of critical apparatus is a difficult task.

I am now working primarily on my thesis. I look at the project as an opportunity to explore how digital-born research might proceed. I hope to release the thesis in a useful online format.

3. What digital resources do you use most often in your research? Do you know of any resources that other scholars may not be aware of?

I spend almost all of my research time in the CD versions of the Siku Quanshu, Sibu Congkan, and Hanyu Dacidian. I also do much of my geographical research with data from CHGIS in Google Earth. I also use their reign-period data for historical reign periods.

4. What research materials would you use if they were more accessible or if reliable digitized versions were available? Alternately, what digital materials would you like to see improved with new features?

I am extremely unhappy with the digitized versions of print texts made available by Chinese commercial presses. In 2007, I ought to be able to view these resources in a reasonably modern interface, run them natively on a Mac (instead of in a Windows virtual machine), and view them together instead of in the old interface they allow me to use. I deeply wish these materials would be made available in a pure-data XML format so that we could use alternate reading environments if we wanted. (And to be sure that we really owned the materials, as opposed to only renting it until the interface is too out-of-date to run on an upgraded Windows.)

If I had a few wishes, I would ask for: more pre-Tang points in the CHGIS geography database, a digitized version of the Wang Li dictionary that isn’t an illegal pdf, and a data-only version of the SKQS that I could search through with my own interface.

5. What technical tools would assist with the less scholarly parts of your research?

I desperately need a better process for turning typed information into print text and web pages. Microsoft Word is not acceptable either typographically for print or semantically for producing computer-readable data. I am currently using Emacs org-mode, with a handful of personal extensions, and transforming this to html or pdf. But this isn’t a good answer for the non-programmer, and it takes a bit longer than I’d like. If someone could solve this problem, I could be pehaps 50% more efficient.

· Jul 21