The Programming Historian: ” Introduction to the Principles of Linked Open Data “

I chose the Programing Historian Lesson ” Introduction to the Principles of Linked Open Data “. It provides a thorough introduction to the concept of linked data and its practical applications in digital humanities. I chose this lesson as it is intended to provide an overview of how Linked Open Data is organized and compatible with many databases.  It seems that it will be very useful to be able to understand the relationship between pieces of information spread over many different databases.  The intent is to provide consistency in data organization that allows for an efficient search.  The lesson explains very carefully the organizing principles behind datasets that are intended to provide uniform application and ease of searching.  The emphasis is on a consistent organizational standard that provides for uniform identification of information within an open format that is accessible to all.   I was not very familiar with the naming protocols and various programming languages.  I found the jargon and acronyms to be challenging.  The author went to great lengths to use examples of how the relationship between one piece of data to other pieces should be organized in a consistent way.  I found his explanations logical.  I also found the links to specific Wikipedia pages very useful to go back and forth between the main article and specific technical terms.  I found myself going back and forth within the article so  I could fully understand the logical progression of concepts. The lesson explains the importance of URI’s and their relationship with URL’s as well as how information is to be organized to improve searches and comparisons.

The strength of the lesson is that the author carefully builds on one concept after another and with the repeated review you begin to understand how they work together.  He walks you through the process of creating linked data using RDF, RDFS, and OWL, three important technologies for publishing and sharing structured data on the web.  As I mentioned earlier, I have no firsthand knowledge of data organization. The lesson, on the other hand, makes no assumptions that I knew much about linked data and provides clear explanations and examples throughout. The reader is provided with examples of the process of creating a simple linked data file with RDF, defining a namespace with RDFS, and adding classes and properties with OWL. I had difficulty recreating the concepts described in the first part of the lesson  The part of the lesson I really enjoyed was attempting to use SPARQL, a query language used to retrieve and manipulate linked data,  within the database.  It was interesting because you had the ability to modify your queries to get different results.  I was impressed by the connectivity of all the databases within this format and search tool. I think the earlier concepts would have been more accessible if the lesson used a similar tool to with the SPARQL query language. As with any technology that is new to the user, there will be challenges and frustrations along the way. The lesson, on the other hand, is intended to be approachable and simple to follow, with clear explanations and examples.  I can’t say that I mastered the concepts, and it took me several hours of back-and-forth review to have a relatively clear understanding of the concepts. 

I should add that I came away with the conclusion that the best way to master these tools was to use them (with some guidance) and learn through trial and error.  Linked data is a valuable resource for digital humanities projects because it enables researchers to connect disparate sources of information and create rich, interactive datasets. A digital history project, for example, could use linked data to create a dataset of historical events and the locations, people, and sources associated with them. This dataset could then be used to create visualizations, maps, and other interactive displays that would allow users to explore and analyze the data in new ways.  Finally, the Programming Historian lesson “Introduction to Linked Data” is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning about linked data and its applications in digital humanities projects. The lesson contains clear explanations and practical examples, making it understandable even to those who have no prior knowledge of linked data. It does take some time to understand how the information is organized and how best to design your inquiries to discover the information you’re looking for.  I think a hidden benefit is that by attempting to use Linked Open Data you become more aware of the volume and variety of information which in turn suggests new ways of using and organizing meaningful explanations.  I think the process of using this information enhances the ability to draw meaning from it. In this regard, it may be one of the most important new tools in the humanities.  

Robert Algermissen






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