On 2.2.18, professor Arto Mustajoki has held a presentation on the use of Integrum database for research on Russian language and Russia more broadly. While the public transport was not running in Helsinki and we were only four people in the seminar room, twice as many participants joined online. Very nice to see that Adobe provides us a convenient way of enabling participation not only across our campuses but also across the world.
Integrum is the largest proprietary electronic archive of mass media from Russia and the CIS countries. Currently Integrum comprises more than 15000 databases, including newspapers and journals, news agency texts, TV and radio texts, online news publications from central and regional mass media, as well as legal texts, together constituting a corpus with over 50 bn words. Full-text archives of many newspapers and magazines date back to the beginning of the 1990s.
While the company, also called Integrum, is a private provider of the database, scholars at the University of Helsinki and everyone logging in from the University of Helsinki has free access to all its mass media collections.
During a live demo, professor Mustajoki showed different search queries that can be performed on Integrum directly, as well as provided a wealth of real examples on the use of the database stemming from his own research. For example, the advanced search functionality of Integrum allowed to find 2500 of a unique ‘semipassive’ voice; discover why people pretend (not) to understand; investigate attitudes towards ‘fashionable words’; and research the objects of Soviet nostalgia.
Professor Mustajoki emphasized that in advancing digital humanities, we need CCCP – cooperation, collaboration, curiosity and passion. While computational linguistics and social statistics have a long history, digital humanities seek to cross-cut these existing practices and add new functionality by leveraging the potential of big data.
On 5 Jan 2018, we held the first Digital Russia Studies seminar in Helsinki. Eighteen participants joined the kick-off event – some came to Aleksanteri Institute, others connected online. In addition to researchers in social sciences, law, languages, and cultural history coming from the University of Helsinki, we welcomed participants from the University of Turku and the University of Eastern Finland, making the session even more exciting and interdisciplinary.
Dr. Mila Oiva from Aalto University presented her ongoing research project that utilizes digital humanities methods in the field of Russian cultural history. Mila’s research investigates the depiction on Yves Montand’s visit to Moscow in 1956-57. During this period, the USSR was opening to the world, declaring the policy of peaceful co-existence. Mila is studying the archival materials devoted to Montand’s visit using, as she says, two sets of glasses. One way of looking at the material is a more conventional close reading. Another set of glasses is that of topic modelling and collocation analysis. Integrating both methods sequentially in her research design, Mila is alternating between ‘close’ and ‘distant’ reading to gain new perspectives upon her research materials.
In the second part of the seminar, Dr. Ekaterina Protassova and Dr. Mikhail Kopotev from the Department of Modern Languages gave an overview of the ongoing research activities in the discipline of Russian language and literature. Among the recent projects, CoCoCo – Automatic extraction of collocations and colligations, as well as Plagiarism Detection Algorithms for the Russian language, are of interest to the broader research community as they develop technical tools specifically for the Russian language that may be of interest to scholars of various disciplines.
At the end of the seminar, participants had a chance to tell each other a bit more about their current interest in Digital Russia Studies, as well as exchange ideas and tips with each other while having some coffee and pulla, a Finnish sweet bun. After this exciting January kick-off, we are looking forward to the February workshop by Prof. Arto Mustajoki on the versatile opportunities of Integrum database.