In the portal, you can also conduct language analysis and explore the extent of certain words being associated with different people. 'It reveals, for example, that biographies about female Members of Parliament use a large number of the words "child" or "family," whereas family matters are rarely brought up in connection with corresponding male Members of Parliament.'
Some connections between different people may even be confusing. 'Looking, for example, at the egocentric network of Tapio Rautavaara, you can see that he has a direct connection to academic and poet Aale Tynni – which seems a little peculiar. However, BiographySampo reveals that they both won a gold medal in the London Olympics: Aale Tynni as the winner of lyric works, which was an Olympic title at the time.'
The latest sampo reveals how medieval texts may have circulated the world during the centuries
The latest newcomer in the Sampo series is Mapping Manuscript Migrations (MMM). Published in Washington DC at the end of January 2020, it has proven useful to historians in particular.
MMM combines over 200,000 hand-written documents from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, along with 900,000 related events. The documents have been compiled from three massive sources: the famous Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, the Schoenberg Institute in the US and the French research institute IRHT.
'We gathered information from these different organisations to make the manuscripts easier to research. These are internationally circulating manuscripts and the same ones are mentioned in different databases. In this project, data from the different databases were combined in order to provide a global view.'
The service can be used to find out, for instance, when a certain manuscript has been made and by whom. It includes also over 2,000 copies of the documents by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, made in the Middle Ages. Since many of the texts are copies, their contents may deviate from the original.
'For instance, the adventures of Marco Polo come in many different versions. A new copyist or publisher wanting to make business may have added a few funny anecdotes,' Hyvönen says and laughs.
One idea behind the new sampo was to make visible in the portal’s map view how the documents have circulated globally. User-friendly data analysis tools have been integrated into this one as well, and they can be used without any additional learning. 'If the researcher is not satisfied with our visualisations and wants to use, say, another map programme, they may select an interesting cluster of data and download it as a spreadsheet.'
A bit over a month after the MMM had been published, it had attracted a total of approximately 1,500 users. Considering that it is directed at researchers of medieval manuscripts in particular, the amount is quite high.
Do you have a historical background, considering your devotion to these subjects? 'I do find history interesting, of course, and I’ve always admired the multidisciplinary work of Renaissance people, but I am a graduate of Helsinki University of Technology,' Hyvönen says.
He considers the subject appropriate for semantic research. 'Even though we’re not professional historians, we are able to understand these things at a general level, which makes this an understandable research theme. A more in-depth understanding on the projects comes from the humanist researchers who are involved. Collaborating with the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of the Arts is an important part of our work.'
English translation: Annika Rautakoura