This paper proposes a design of online digital collection of pre-modern Japanese books by using computational and visualization approach to open a new vision of Japanese culture through books. Digital collections as an emerging field has made significant changes in the way we interact with books from physical to virtual, however, most collections places their emphasis on only digitization and academic uses, and focuses less on its visualization and use by the general public. Therefore, the aim of this research is to explore historical temporal data, namely rare Japanese books from the 8th to the 19th century with advanced computer-based visualization approach, and to reveal the cultural history, trends, and fashion in Japan in narrative form. This research will examine the method of digitization and visualization in a coherent manner, in order to enable diverse audience to access, browse, and interact with the vast collection from Keio University’s collection of pre-modern Japanese books.
During the past few years, there is a dramatic shift in the way we preserve books. This shift allows books to exist not only as a genuine artifact but also as a replicated or restructured digital artifact that exists in the virtual world. Ever since the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web, printed books—especially, the books that is distinguished by its early printing date, namely rare and pre-modern book collections—has transformed an ontology from physical to the virtual space by offering the promise of new forms and content delivery that exceed the limitations of printed. However, most researches in Japan remains in developing their digitization techniques, creating a database or an online-archive for academic usage. Therefore, it is difficult for the general audiences—especially for those who does not understand Japanese or does not possesses knowledge related to Japan—to improve their understanding of Japanese culture through pre-modern Japanese books.
The research presented in this paper proposes a new conception of digital collection through practice-led research. I work with the collection from Keio University’s Institute of Oriental Classics, which keeps extensive collection specialized in pre-modern Japanese books from the 8th to the 19th century, combine and adapt computational and visualization approaches to interpret information of the books and to promote understanding of Japanese culture for the audiences from a wide range of nationalities and backgrounds. Furthermore, the digital collections are implemented to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): Japanese Culture Through Rare Books which launches from July 2016, and approaches to diverse MOOC audiences, regardless of their baseline differences in ethnic, regional, or educational[*1]. The MOOC program runs for three weeks and features the collection from the Institute of Oriental Classics as well as the visual materials from the Keio University Library collection. The course covers the various fields in bibliographical studies, such as bookbinding styles, types of manuscripts and illustrated books, and the history of book publishing in Japan. Along with these course topics, the aim of this research is to design and implement an online digital collection, which allows general audiences at different level to access and interact with the vast collection from Keio University, using the combination of computational analysis and narrative visualization methods to provide a deeper understanding of pre-modern Japanese books.
The design process for developing aesthetically pleasing yet insightful digital collection is high dimensional and inherently complex. Methods and tools are widespread in the scholarly community, not only in the scientific disciplines but also in the humanities within the framework of digital humanities. However, the most important area in digital collection is the quality and efficacy of its design. Effective design and experience must be accessible to a plurality of people, and hence this research advances the discussion with integrating digital curation strategies and narrative visualization format to the design in aiming to provide effective and intuitive experience for the diverse audience.
Through digitizing and visualizing temporal data in a narrative format, and focusing on both verbal and nonverbal aspects of the books, this research allows general audiences to interact with its diverse elements of Japanese culture, from micro to macro level. The implementation of digital collection provides practical and comprehensive insights of Japanese culture through books. Furthermore, this paper expects to prove that gaining new insights through historical temporal data does not only require technological advancement, but also an appropriate transformation and interpretation of the data through the combination of computational and visualization approach.
[*1] FutureLearn, Japanese Culture Through Rare Books, https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/japanese-rare-books-culture (May 2016.)