2 million for improving AI research on humanities big data

DHLab of the KNAW Humanities Cluster in Amsterdam is improving AI technologies to enable advanced and innovative research based on humanities big data. Dr. Marieke van Erp, head of the DHLab will receive a €2 million ERC Consolidator Grant for this purpose.

Amsterdam, 31 January 2023 – Dr. Marieke van Erp, head of the DHLab of the KNAW Humanities Cluster will receive a prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant of 2 million euros. This funding will allow Van Erp to start the TRIFECTA project. This project combines AI technologies, such as language and semantic web technology, in a unique way to extract contextualised information from digitised sources. This information about complex entities and concepts will be capturedin a dedicated database.

Not made for big data

‘Humanities research can extract so much more information from big data,’ says Van Erp. ‘The current wealth of digitised sources offers humanities research enormous opportunities. Unfortunately, current AI technologies for analysing this big data are not capable of representing complex concepts such as identity, and changes through time.’

It is precisely the exploration of complex entities and concepts that is at the heart of humanities research. TRIFECTA’s goal is to improve and advance these technologies to deal with changes over time and links to different narratives.

What exactly is the VOC?

An example. The VOC is a complex entity that evolved over the centuries from a trading company to an organisation with its own currency and army. In the Dutch language, it is a term that illustrates entrepreneurship. Politicians talk about a VOC mentality, but opinions on this topic diverge. Such concepts are part of a complex network of national identities. The entity ‘VOC’ has changed dramatically over time and it connects to many different narratives with different takes on it.

Schematische weergave van verschillende interpretaties, context en betekenissen van de term VOC.

Entities and concepts are thus part of a complex network of national identities, have changed radically over time, and connect to many different narratives with different views. The technologies being improved within TRIFECTA will soon be able to deal with this, ensuring that research on big data will only produce really interesting and surprising results.