City University of Hong Kong Dep
Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Pattern Visualization: Computational Study of the Chinese Buddhist Canon
Professor Lewis Lancaster
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
Date: 7 December 2009 (Monday)
Time: 4:30 - 6:00pm
Venue: B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F, Blue Zone), Academic Building, CityU
Two decades ago, teams of researchers started to explore the possibility of creating a computer format of the Chinese Buddhist canon. Today, digital versions in either DVD or internet, from Taiwan and Korea have become the standard sources in the field for search and retrieval of keywords. The question of how to use the digital data in ways that differ from the close reading of codex paper versions has become a new topic for discussion. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, a team of scholars at University of California, Berkeley began to research ways of displaying the 52 million characters of the canon in abstract form. Two years of work have produced a model for doing a very different sort of search and retrieval endeavor. The full text of Chinese glyphs has been replaced with a "Blue Dot" for each character. Each of these abstracted "dots" carry 35 fields of metadata about the placement and history of the text and glyph. When searching for a phrase or word, the field of "Blue Dot" is shifted to show the target word in red. As a result of this effort to create visual patterns, it is now possible to display an immediate image of word distribution in the entire canon. The next phase of work is to use algorithms to search for and display computational produced patterns. A further project can expand the project to include immersive environments and 3-D experiences for researchers. In these ways, it may be possible to more fully exploit the potentials of having large corpora in digital formats.
Professor Lewis R. Lancaster, is Professor Emeritus of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley. He is also the Director of Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative since 1996. He has published widely on the computation and digitization of a variety of texts related to Buddism.