Pierus, an IT System for Qualitative Studies of Digitized Sources

Master's Defense by Jeppe Eimose Larsen


In my master thesis I examine IT systems for qualitative study of digitized sources through a theoretical and empirical perspective. In the first part, I show that IT systems for historical usages in Denmark primarily function as distributors of digitized materials, secondarily as presentations of sources and their historical context. Thus, I show that there exist very few IT systems for studying digitized sources in Denmark and that the few that exist are very simple. In the second part, I give a coherent description of the principles for an IT system for qualitative study of digitized sources which is absent in the literature. I call the ideal IT system Pierus and show that this should (1) function with representations of sources as near their originals as possible; (2) have a broad inclusion of sources concerning types, fields of study and volume; (3) offer extensive possibilities for marking up and adding metadata which are placed in a structure of layers related to the different aspects of analysis; (4) have a differentiated user interface and set of IT tools according to the needs and the academic tradition of the user; and finally (5) make it possible to extract parts of the sources and the added information. Based on an evaluation of a prototype of Pierus and of the Pierus Principles, I show that there is a strong need for an IT system designed from the Pierus Principles and that such an IT system would be a major step forward for the study of digitized sources in humanistic research. On the basis of the thesis conclusions, I recommend the development of an IT system from the Pierus Principles that can be used in qualitative study of sources and furthermore that this IT system is maintained beyond specific research projects' lifetime. To ensure that the IT system can be quickly applied in concrete research, it should be developed incrementally in order of the above list of principles.

Supervisor: Jakob Grue Simonsen (Department of Computer Science), University of Copenhagen.
Censor: Erling C. Havn (Department of Management Engineering), Technical University of Denmark