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Buddhist Scriptures, Update from a 2011 Freedman Fellow
William E. Deal (Ph.D., Departments of Religious Studies, and Cognitive Science) crosses time and cultures with Chinese writings of Buddhist scriptures, and does it with skills from his 2011 Freedman Fellows award. As the 2012 Freedman Fellows Award Program announced the criteria and the April 2 deadline for new project submissions, Deal shares progress on his project:
Nearly 20 years ago, Deal meticulously color-coded by hand the content categories of some of the tales from the Japanese Buddhist text Hokke genki, "Miraculous Tales of the Lotus Sutra," in order to see the people, events, regions of 11th century Japan.
A Larger Perspective
Written in Chinese, the tales served as inspirations for later Japanese Buddhist texts, says Deal, as his 2011 Freedman Fellows award and newly gained skills now allow him to apply digital textual and spatial analysis tools to the texts. Using XML and TEI to analyze and interpret the tales unlocks the complexity of the texts and also "dramatically changes what is possible," beyond reading texts. Using digital technologies, research is possible in new ways: one can see word frequencies, the relationships of those content categories on a larger scale, the scope of Buddhism in 11th century Japan via GIS, and a developing concordance of key words in context.
"I love that we can do projects now, as the Freedman Fellows Awards Program has evolved."
Deal's 2011 project was designed as phases of a multi-year project, and he's aiming for wide availability with an iOS app & a sustainable online presence. Scanning the tales with Unicode for Japanese and Chinese languages, he's adding English translations and believes the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the Freedman Fellows Program and projects are unique. While other programs exist, he says "they are nothing quite like what we have here."
The word cloud from one of the stories merely gives a glimpse into the revelations and potential of his project's work. "In some ways, we're pioneers," reflects Deal. "It's why the Freedman Fellows is so important to me. We build new models, not copy others. It's a huge opportunity!"
The Samuel B. and Marian K. Freedman Digital Library, Language Learning, and Multimedia Services Center is a partnership between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Kelvin Smith Library.
Posted by Karen Oye on March 29, 2012 06:26 PM