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January 26th, 2008

Neil Mayhew and Larry Waswick: Electronic Tools and Bible Translation

(Neil) Language analysis, ethnography, and translation work all rely on reference materials, not only commentaries and Bible dictionaries, but also language study, grammars, and other reference works. Wycliffe works in a “massively multilingual” context of some 6900 languages that often require new characters and complex scripts. Training translators now uses a “just in time” approach, since start-up time for new translators can be extensive. So they’re moving their own materials into Libronix so that they have an integrated system. (Larry) They use FieldWorks as a suite of tools for collecting ethnographic materials, doing translation, and a special word processor that handles rendering new Unicode characters. Translators Editor uses the Libronix DLS Object Model for interacting with Libronix and synchronizing the display to a selected passage. So separate tools from separate organizations can work together well.

(Neil) Vision 2025 is an attempt to get language work started in all the remaining languages that need a translation by the year 2025. This means a greater focus on equipping mother-tongue translators to get work started: less costly hardware and software, and more time off-grid (without AC power). So they’re evaluating One Laptop Per Child’s XO machines as an alternative. (XO demo)

January 26th, 2008

Bob MacDonald: Visualizing Micro and Macro Structures in Scripture

Started from studying the Letter to the Hebrews, and understanding the role of Psalms in that book. A year and a half into a 6-year project to learn Hebrews and translate the Psalms, using color to represent parallels, chiasm, repetition, and other aspects. Other visualizations show types (songs, maskils, etc.), attributed authorship, and the distribution of different names of the Lord.

January 26th, 2008

Patrick Durusau: Topic Maps and the Bible

An early experience in connecting manuals to software failed because subjects weren’t used and described consistently. Two outcomes of this failure were DocBook and Topic Maps, initiallly implemented in HyTime, but quickly afterwards in XML, producing XTM (see topicmaps.org). XTM was adopted into ISO 13250. The revisions to the current version should be mostly completed this year or next.

A diversity of identifications is a given: there won’t be a single identifier that everyone will adopt. This is an old problem in computer science that goes by lots of different names, like record linkage, entity resolution, etc. The “my identifier” method assigns a unique identifier to each thing: but you have to trust their judgment about what’s split and joined, and the original distinctions have gone away.

In Topic Maps, a subject is represented by a “topic”. A separate mechanism deals with relationships (“associations”) and “occurrences”, an instance of a subject. Subjects have identifiers and locators (like a URL). The Topic Maps Reference Model is different: an abstract model where subjects are represented by proxies. Identification matters because it defines what we can talk about. Topic maps give us a way to integration information across separate databases. Subject-centric computing is another old concept. We need some basis for disclosing our rules for merging: that way it can proceed bottom-up.

January 26th, 2008

Reinier de Blois: the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew

A simple digital re-implementation of a book like a Bible dictionary may not be very user-friendly. You can use hyperlinks to hide details, and then make them available on demand. But a few dictionaries have been designed from the beginning for digital publication, including the UBS Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew (SDBH), which is based on structural semantic distinctions in the language. Based on cognitive linguistics, where meanings have words (instead of vice versa). For Hebrew, you need both a paradigmatic and syntagmatic (contextual) perspective. An apple is both a kind of fruit (paradigmatic), but also a member of the horticulture domain that includes tree, ripe/unripe, picking, etc. So “sheep” in Hebrew is related to domestic animals as a category (which doesn’t include “pig”!), but also the contextual domains of animal husbandry and sacrifice.

Their dictionary tool starts with a template, and uses drag-and-drop to attach references (they want to attach them all, not just selected examples). After an entry is completed, you can find both the categorial and contextual relationships. About a third of the data has been completed, and the results are all available at www.sdbh.org. Since it’s not complete yet, you can’t find every word, but you can evaluate what’s there, and even contribute additional material. This will be integrated into Libronix when it’s complete.

January 26th, 2008

Mark Hoffman: Digital Resources for Biblical Maps and Mapping

Good survey of many existing resources: map types and sources. Road maps help explain historical developments. Accordance has a nice animated map of events like Paul’s missionary journeys. Copyright issues throughout are complicated and variable, however, whether for ministry or commercial use, though non-profit usage is usually less restricted. Orientation is a special issue for Palestine, since the aspect works better with East at the top, though simply rotation doesn’t address the problem. Some interesting issues in reconciling the Biblical record with archaeology: if Ai was completely destroyed, then what do we make of its map placement? Traditional locations may not be authoritative.

The ability to edit maps is important, since most people don’t have time or skill to revise their own maps. Some of the software packages have maps that be edited, layered, etc. But ultimately, what makes a good map depends on the intended usage. We want our text, maps, and reference works to be interactive, so we can easily go from one to the other. (other interesting copyright discussion about whether use in church is considered a “teaching purpose”)

Gerasa project uses Google Earth to show ancient Roman cities. Megiddo is a great example of how maps enrich our understanding: you need to know the geography to make sense out of Megiddo’s importance. Walked through some examples using BibleWorks, Accordance, Holy Land 3-D, and Google Earth to look at the journey to Emmaus in Luke 24:13. Google Earth makes it easy to incorporate your own photos (when they’re geotagged) through Picassa and Panoramio: layering on Google Earth seems likely to grow in popularity.

January 26th, 2008

Stephen Smith: The ESV and Bible Usability

Electronic books (like Amazon’s Kindle) are the next big thing, but they don’t yet give publishers enough flexibility to address usability issues for the Bible. How do we model what happens to people when they encounter the Bible text? Questions like their profession, education, church involvement, where they are when reading, and many others all affect the process of designing usability for Bible readers. (lots of questions and dimensions to this discussion)

After you’ve identified a persona (with particular characteristics), then you can answer some of the questions about how to design the right Bible for this kind of person. Don’t Make Me Think (Stephen Krug) is a good introduction to web usability. Bible publishers and developers should share their usability data so we can all learn.