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IMPACT Final Conference – CLARIN and IMPACT: Crossing Paths

25 October, 2011
Steven Krauwer

Steven Krauwer

Steven Krauwer of CLARIN brought everyone back from coffee break and entertained and informed us with his reflections on the future possibilities of e-Humanities.

Steven talked us through CLARIN’s resource and technical infrastructure, all based in language in whatever form that takes: text speech, programming or multimodal. The goal is to allow users to interact with data not just view it. Steven envisages a single portal – a one-stop-shop for everyone involved in research of culture and literature. CLARIN is based in Humanities but not limited to them. For now, pragmatically CLARIN is based in the EU and caters for EU especially. He stressed the academic bias and the democratic ethos with a distinction on languages not considering any commercial relevance. Each language is equally dear to CLARIN.

Steven hopes to serve all scholars whether for example, looking for documents concerning Black plague in European archives; all newspaper coverage on Islam; German television speakers with Dutch accent or pronoun systems in language of Nepal. Whatever you field CLARIN wants to provide the platform to research it.

Moving towards e-Science, CLARIN sees a continual decline of old traditions as inefficient ways of working give way to future methods for future generations increasingly based in the digital realm.

Steven highlighted problems of cross compatibility between tools and systems and standards in order to make access sustainable, right from the researchers desk, and without needing costly journeys to archives themselves.

CLARIN hopes to integrate into existing systems and institution and not to build a whole new system for others to adopt.

The aim is to “if it exists, it exists on CLARIN”, the system should be adaptable to any individual’s online environment, it should be be technical competent by building modular features that can  be used for unique problems and tasks and specific workflows. CLARIN aims to  be fully compatible with OCR, Worklow and Post correction processes but will be receptive to new ways of working as the source material changes to more complex forms of media.

So down to reality, what is the state of play today? CLARIN began with preparatory phase from 2008-11. This  ended in the summer and they are now building the infrastructure. Although 2 years away for official launch of the services, tools and resources will start feeding into the public domain before then. After launch Steven stressed that CLARIN will be in “continuous state of evolution” and hopes to be agile enough to adapt to constantly changing needs.

Steven introduced the structure envisaged, with governmental bodies called ERICs that govern the cooperation between counties with with universities and institution controlling individual input. It should be funded by governments.

ERIC will involve membership fee and each member creating a governing body and to make material available for CLARIN and co-operate with other countries.

ERIC groups will be launched on the 1st of Jan 2012 with many countries already online (although there are those who have been less than pro-active, Steven managed a little hint to the host nation perhaps!)

What sort of animal will CLARIN be? Standards must be agreed on although CLARIN will not try to impose but hope to agree and support limited number of standards with ‘mapability’ and conversion ability.

No closing for holidays, CLARIN will be a 24/7 service. It will ensure access to all library everywhere. The IMPACT OCR centre is an existing model CLARIN would like to follow. CLARIN wants to cater for any archive with paper material and so will be integral to IMACT and future developments like it.

Operational levels includes: universities, national academies, national language institutions; research institutions; at present dealing with mostly written resources but would like to increase scope to other media as well.

The old adage together we are stronger is key in CLARIN’s ethos and collaboration is central to being able to reach the ambitious goal agenda that CLARIN has set down.

e-Humanities through collaboration is not without its problems, but the benefits of this grand vision are now clear to all and with the work of CLARIN, together with IMPACT, it is not so far from a reality.

View presentation here:

And video here:

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