The Pinakes project is the result of a long term activity within the research framework of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence. For the last two decades, the IMSS has focused on tightening the bonds between Information Technology and humanities research, as well as developing IT tools for this purpose. Currently Pinakes is one of the main research projects of the Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale. The cardinal scope of this project is to provide an open and free downloadable application customable for the different disciplinary tasks of humanities research. Other scopes include offering the application to research environments within the natural sciences as well as to management bodies and public administration (see list of users and cooperation partners).
Short functional description
The Pinakes 3 application will be distributed under the regulation of the so-called General Public License and will undergo the rules of the copyleft. This means that anyone interested in using it as it is will be authorized to do so, and that anyone interested in participating to its further development will be authorized to do so by taking part in the Pinakes 3 developer and user community.
This application is divided into three main functional areas:
- a. The management area where, on the basis of the existing methods in the application (a fixed foundational ontology), the user can define:
- how detailed the description of the objects should be;
- what type of relations his objects should have with other objects;
- what kind of indices he wants to use and where to create them;
- what should be published on the web and what should not;
- which data can be shared and which not;
- who does what and at which level of authorization.
- b. The classification area where the user can:
- input data using his own definitions and, in case it is needed, re-edit them according to the given methods;
- refine the definition of information and knowledge domain according to new needs encountered in the research;
- browse and use data belonging to other projects that may be relevant for his on own research;
- use and/or offer other projects relations and indices definition if needed;
- get access to the digital repository of all projects and use, under the Intellectual Property constrain, all digital objects (images, moving pictures, music, etc.);
- define a data navigation for the purpose of editing them;
- get access through the web to other databases in order to capture data and import them in a given project (this according to the rules of Intellectual Property);
- access external (out of the Pinakes project) digital repositories to capture new resources or refer to them through the automatic creation of a web address (this according to the rules of the Intellectual Property and copyright);
- c. The navigation area where the user can:
- get access to all data produced controlling the publication of his own data and, if needed, go back to the input to edit them.
The application is able to manage all types of data: text, scientific objects (such as tables, graphs, mathematical expressions, etc.), structured texts (such as HTML, XML, etc.) and digital objects (such as images, moving pictures, 3D objects etc.).
There is an urgent need for promoting the modelling of IT applications for the benefit of research and teaching within the humanities, as the importance of this effort has to a great extent been ignored by humanities researchers and IT experts alike.
Moreover there is a need to investigate in which way and through which kinds of methodology the humanities can influence and participate to the development of data modelling within Information Technology. This means - especially for continental Europe - that despite the incredible amount of digital data produced by the humanities and despite the European Union’s efforts to draw guidelines for and supporting digitizing projects, few continental European universities have seriously considered creating new departments and curricula for what in the Anglophone world is called “Computing and Humanities”.
Unlike in the US or the UK, where such activity has already been institutionalized and is recognized as an advanced form of humanities studies, great part of the continental universities still do not see the necessity of incorporating this discipline in future humanities studies.
Within this context, the project Pinakes would like to give both a methodological and practical contribution in order to draw the attention to the fact that interaction with IT is not any longer an option for the humanities - and that it actually offers a great opportunity for the development of research.