Stanford librarians attend conference on cyberinfrastructure for China studies

April 16, 2018
Joshua Capitanio

Several representatives from the Stanford East Asia Library recently attended the International Conference on Cyberinfrastructure for Historical China Studies at the Harvard Center in Shanghai, organized by Peter Bol of the China Biographical Database project at Harvard University and Donald Sturgeon of the Chinese Text Project, in conjunction with the Peking University Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History.  The purpose of the conference was to discuss the creation of new infrastructure for supporting digital humanities projects in Chinese studies.

The organizers described the central issue addressed by the conference as follows:

As the digital systems essential to modern academic scholarship continue to increase in power, scope, and complexity, sustainable mechanisms for supporting their development become increasingly important.  The creation of improved cyberinfrastructure - technical and organizational foundations facilitating the development, maintenance, and interoperability of complex digital tools and platforms - has the potential to greatly increase the utility of both current and future digital systems.

In order to work toward this end, the organizers brought scholars who are engaged in digital humanities research on China together with librarians, who support such research, and vendors who are working to develop and distribute databases and other tools for digital scholarship.  The goal of these discussions is to ensure that these platforms are being developed in such a way that they can be scaled in the future to address new challenges, and to improve interoperability between the various unique platforms and systems for digital scholarship that are being developed independently around the world.

One of the main outcomes of the conference was a reaffirmation of the important role that libraries and librarians play in the development of the broad field of digital humanities.  Librarians help to connect researchers with the important tools and datasets that vendors are developing, and libraries provide resources to train faculty and student researchers in the use of these new tools and in digital humanities research methodologies in general.  Yet, at the same time, many libraries face significant challenges in fulfilling these roles, such as diminishing budgets, dwindling staff, and lack of training and technological expertise.  Many speakers emphasized that libraries must continue to work hard to keep up with the rapid developments in the field of digital humanities, and should be prepared to assume more prominent roles as custodians and even creators of new digital resources and tools.

Here at Stanford, many of these roles, including developing new tools and methods for digital research, and providing training in a variety of digital humanities and tools, are performed by the Center for Interdisciplinary Digital Research (CIDR).  Visit the CIDR webpage to find out more about current projects and upcoming workshops.  More information about digital humanities projects and ventures can also be found at the website for Stanford Libraries' Digital Library Systems and Services (DLSS).

Several of the speakers and organizers from the Shanghai cyberinfrastructure conference will also be participating in the upcoming Digital Humanities Asia 2018 Summit, held at Stanford on April 27-28, 2018.



Joshua Capitanio

Joshua Capitanio

Public Services Librarian, East Asia Library
Bibliographer, East and Southeast Asia (Western languages)
Subject Specialist, Religious Studies