The TTC-Atenea System: Researching Opportunities in the Field of Art-theoretical Terminology

  1. 1. Nuria Rodríguez Ortega

    Universidad de Málaga (University of Malaga)

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The purpose of this presentation is to demonstrate the
research opportunities that the TTC-ATENEA system offers
to specialists in Art Theory. Principally, we will focus on
those functionalities that are able to assist specialists in the
interpretation of the theoretical discourses, a complex task
due to the ambiguity and inaccuracy that distinguish this type
of artistic terminology.
The TTC-ATENEA system is currently being developed under
my supervision in a Project supported by the Ministerio de
Educación y Ciencia of Spain called Desarrollo de un tesauro
terminológico conceptual (TTC) de los discursos teórico-artísticos
españoles de la Edad Moderna, complementado con un corpus
textual informatizado (ATENEA) (HUM05-00539). It is an
interdisciplinary project integrated by the following institutions:
University of Málaga (Spain), University of de Santiago de
Compostela (Spain), University of Valencia (Spain), European
University of Madrid (Spain), the Getty Research Institute (Los
Angeles, EE.UU.), the University of Chicago (EE.UU.) and the
Centro de Documentación de Bienes Patrimoniales of Chile.
Also, it maintains a fruitful collaboration with the Department
of Computational Languages and Sciences of the University
of Málaga, specifi cally with the Project called ISWeb: Una
Infraestructura Básica para el Desarrollo de La Web Semántica y su
Aplicación a la Mediación Conceptual (TIN2005-09098-C05-01).
This system can be defi ned as a virtual net made up of two
complementary components: an electronic text database
(ATENEA), and the terminological conceptual thesaurus
(TTC). The TTC is a knowledge tool for art specialists that
consists of a compilation of described, classifi ed and linked
terms and concepts. The textual database consists of important
art-historical texts (16th -18th centuries), encoded in XMLTEI
(1), that supply the terms and concepts recorded in the
thesaurus (2).
We want to remark the signifi cant contribution of ATENEA
database to the fi eld of the virtual and digital libraries in Spain.
Despite the fact that the building of digital and virtual libraries
is an important area of development (3), ATENEA represents
one of the fi rst textual databases about specialized subject
matter –with exception of the digital libraries on literary texts-
(4). It is a very different situation from other contexts, where
we fi nd relevant specialized electronic textual collections. It is the case, for example, of the digital libraries about Italian
artistic texts developed and managed by Signum (Scuola
Normale Superiore di Pisa) (5); or the collections included in
the ARTFL Project (University of Chicago) (6).
Providing Solutios to the Ambiguity of
Art-theoretical Terminology
The confi guration of the ATENEA-TTC system was determined
by the main purpose of the project itself--that is, to provide
a satisfactory answer to the terminological/conceptual
problems that encumber the task of conducting research in
art theory, due to the high degree of semantic density of the
terminology contained in historical documents. In this respect,
it is important to point out that the objective of the Project is
not only to distinguish the terminological polysemy, that is, the
different concepts that a term denotes (i.e., disegno as product,
disegno as abstract concept, disegno as formal component of
the paintings…), but also the different interpretations that the
same concept assumes in discourses belonging to different
authors. For instances, the concept disegno, understood as an
abstract concept, has not the same interpretation in Zuccaro´s
treatise than in Vasari´s one, what implies that the term disegno
does not mean exactly the same in such texts. Indeed, this is
one of the more problematic aspects of textual interpretation,
since the same term assumes different semantic nuances in
each text or treatise, increasing, in that way, the possibilities
for ambiguity and error.
In connection with this question, the eminent Professor
Fernando Marías (7) has suggested the development of a
“cronogeografía” of the art-theoretical concepts and terms. In
his words, the so-called “cronogeografía” should be a precise
means of control of the emergence and use of the theoretical
vocabulary as well as of the ideas behind this. We consider that
the methodology proposed by this Project could be an answer
to Professor Marías´ suggestion.
It is clear that this approach requires, fi rstly, a comparative
conceptual analysis among the artistic texts stored in ATENEA
in order to identify the different interpretations of each
concept and, as a result, the semantic variations assumed by
every term. To make visible in the thesaurus these semanticconceptual
distinctions, we have proceeded to tag concepts
and terms by mean of parenthetical qualifi ers related to authors,
which have been specifi cally developed to this end. These
qualifi ers specify the author who has used or defi ned them.
Thus, the TTC records the conceptual-semantic variations
among concepts and terms used by different authors, and also
shows them graphically and visually. For example, the following
representation generated by the system (fi gure 1):
Fig. 1. Uses and interpretations of vagueza in
the Spanish art –theory (17th century).
reveals us, at a glance, that vagueza has the same interpretation
in Sigüenza and Santos´s discourses, but that this assumes
other senses in Carducho and Martinez´s treatises.
This procedure implies other signifi cant feature of the
ATENEA-TTC system: that terms and concepts are described
in the TTC according to how they has been used or defi ned in
each particular text. This last point deserves to be emphasized.
Effectively, there are other projects that also link terms to online
dictionary entries, in which the user fi nds general defi nitions
of the terms. Nevertheless, in the TTC terms and concepts are
defi ned in reference to the specifi c texts in where they have
been located. So, clicking on the selected term or concept, the
user gets information about how such term or concept has
been specifi cally used and defi ned in a particular text or by a
particular author.
In addition to that, the TTC-ATENEA system provides full
interaction between the ATENEA corpus and the TTC. The
system easily allows the defi nition of connections between a
term or a concept in an XML-TEI marked text and the registry
of the TTC. Thus, terms and concepts in the text are linked
to all their relevant information, stored and structured in the
TTC records. In the same way, the system allows to establish
a connection between terms and concepts registered in the
TTC and the different places where they appear in the XMLTEI
marked texts. As far as XML-TEI marked texts and TTC
are stored in the same database, we can establish these links in
a totally effective and effi cient way without having to access to
different data repositories to retrieve and link this information.
Consequently, one of the most important potentialities of
the system as a research tool derives from the interactions
that users are able to establish among the different types of
information compiled in each repository.
Finally, future extensions of the TTC-ATENEA will study
the possibility of use not only a thesaurus but a full fl edged
OWL [7] ontology and its integration in the Khaos Semantic Web platform [8] [9] [10] in order to achieve a formal explicit
representation of the artistic epistemology contained in the
Research Possibilities
The system allows users to retrieve the stored information
from both terminological-conceptual and textual repositories.
Nevertheless, as indicated above, the most important research
possibilities derive from the interactions that users are able
to establish between each repository. To illustrate this, we will
give a brief example.
1. ATENEA Corpus as a starting point. Imagine that a
specialist is interested in studying the meanings of the terms
used by the Italian author F. Pacheco in his Spanish treatise
(Diálogos de la Pintura, 1633). ATENEA Corpus enables the
specialist to visualize the electronic transcription of the text,
and explore it linguistically by means of different queries -
concordances, frequency lists, co-occurrences…- since the
system has been implemented with its own textual analyzer.
These functionalities do not constitute any novelty; all we
know that. Consequently, the most relevant feature resides in
the fact that the system allows user to browse directly from
a term or concept located in a text to the TTC record where
such term or concept is described according to its use in
Carducho´s text (fi gure 2).
Fig. 2. Connection between a concept in an XML-TEI marked
text (ATENEA) and the TTC record, where it is described.
In this way, the specialist is able to identify the precise senses
that the terms used by Carducho assume, and, therefore,
analyze with more accuracy his theory about the painting.
Once the specialist has accessed to the TTC records, the
system offers him other research possibilities given that
the recorded information is linked to other sections of the
TTC as well as to other texts stored in ATENEA. Thus, the
specialist is able to go more deeply in his investigation and
to get complementary information browsing through the site.
The presentation will show some clarifying examples of these
other possibilities.
2. TTC as a starting point. Imagine now that the specialist is
interested in the use of a particular term. In this case, the most
convenient is to search the term in the TTC. Made the query,
the specialist retrieves the different concepts associated to
the term, as in a conventional specialized dictionary. However,
as the term is marked with the author-parenthetical qualifi ers,
the specialist also fi nds out in which discourses the term has
been identifi ed denoting each concept (see fi gure1). In fact,
various hyperlinks enable him to go from the TTC record to
the exact point of the texts -stored in ATENEA- where the
term appears denoting such concepts (fi gure 3).
Fig. 3. Connection between a concept registered in the TTC and
the places where they appear in the XML-TEI marked texts.
Once in ATENEA Corpus, the specialist has the opportunity
to use its functionalities in order to specify his investigation.
The presentation will show in full detail these possibilities of
usage derived from this interactivity-based approach, and will
include time for Q&A. We believe that the questions taken
into consideration in our exposition will be of interest to
other humanistic disciplines, since the diffi culties of textual
interpretations due to the terminological ambiguity is a
common place in the fi eld of the Humanities.
(1) The DTD used in this Project has been
created from the TEI-Lite DTD. We have selected those elements
that best adjusted to our requirements and we have added others
considered necessaries.
(2) For further information on this system see [1], [2] and [3].
(3) The most paradigmatic example is, without doubt, the Biblioteca
Virtual Miguel de Cervantes []. For
more information, see the directories of the Junta de Andalucía
recursos/otros_recursos.cmd], Ministerio de Cultura [http://www.] or the list posted on the
web of the University of Alicante [
referencia/electronica/bibdigi.html]. Also, see [4] and [5]. (4) Other Spanish projects about specialized digital library are: the
Biblioteca Virtual del Pensamiento Político Hispánico “Saavedra Fajardo”,
whose purpose is to develop a textual corpus of documents and
sources about the Spanish theories on politic [http://saavedrafajardo.]; and the Biblioteca Digital Dioscórides
(Complutense University of Madrid) that provides digitalized texts
from its biomedicine-historical collection [
(7) See [6]
[1] Rodríguez Ortega, N. (2006). Facultades y maneras en
los discursos de Francisco Pacheco y Vicente Carducho . Tesauro
terminológico-conceptual. Málaga: Universidad de Málaga.
[2] Rodríguez Ortega, N. (2006). “Use of computing tools
for organizing and Accessing Theory and Art Criticism
Information: the TTC-ATENEA Project”, Digital Humanities`06
Conference, 4-9 de julio (2006), Universidad de la Sorbonne,
[3] Rodríguez Ortega, N. (2005). “Terminological/Conceptual
Thesaurus (TTC): Polivalency and Multidimensionality
in a Tool for Organizing and Accessing Art-Historical
Information”, Visual Resource Association Bulletin, vol. 32, n. 2,
pp. 34-43.
[4] Bibliotecas Virtuales FHL (2005). Madrid, Fundación Ignacio
[5] García Camarero, E. y García Melero, L. A. (2001). La
biblioteca digital. Madrid, Arco/libros.
[6] Marías, F. (2004). “El lenguaje artístico de Diego Velázquez
y el problema de la `Memoria de las pinturas del Escorial´”,
en Actas del Simposio Internacional Velázquez 1999, Junta de
Andalucía, Sevilla, pp. 167-177.
[7] OWL Web Ontology Language.
[8] Navas-Delgado I., Aldana-Montes J. F. (2004). “A
Distributed Semantic Mediation Architecture”. Journal
of Information and Organizational Sciences, vol. 28, n. 1-2.
December, pp. 135-150.
[9] Moreno, N., Navas, I., Aldana, J.F. (2003). “Putting the
Semantic Web to Work with DB Technology”. IEEE Bulletin
of the Technical Committee on Data Engineering. December, pp.
[10] Berners-Lee, T., Hendler, J., Lassila, O. (2001). “The
semantic web”. Scientifi c American (2001).

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2008

Hosted at University of Oulu

Oulu, Finland

June 25, 2008 - June 29, 2008

135 works by 231 authors indexed

Conference website:

Series: ADHO (3)

Organizers: ADHO

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  • Language: English
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