Digitalizing Old Diary and Reading Multi-layered Everyday Life: A Data Analysis of an Upper-class Elite Man’s Diary (1692-1699) in the Chosǒn, Korea

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Ji Young Jung

    Ewha Womans University

  2. 2. Jeongmin Kim

    Department of Computer Engineering - Daejin University

  3. 3. Jungyeoun Lee

    Ewha Womans University

  4. 4. Jiyoung Kim

    The Graduate School of Korean Studies - The Academy of Korean Studies

Work text
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Research Background and Question

How did the everyday life of upper-class elite men look like in 17
century Korea? How did they establish their position and relationships under Confucian norms, which was the dominant ideology of society at the time? How did they navigate these norms? The current image held by scholars of upper-class elite men of Chosǒn is that of antiquated and solemn scholars who strictly followed "Confucian ideology." However, their diaries show us a diversion from these images.

This research aims to provide a new understanding of the past by analyzing a diary from the Chosǒn period through DH methodology. Most of the diaries of upper-class elite men were written in Chinese characters and were not translated into Korean, allowing only professional researchers to read them. However, this research will enable public users and scholars from various disciplines to access and analyze this text by first translating the original cursive Chinese Characters into Korean, and then transforming it into Digital data.

This research attempts to bridge historical studies and computational methods, increase the depth of the analysis of these types of historical materials, and expand the analytical horizons of the text. By restructuring the real-life diary through text analysis and digitalizing its contents, this research also attempts to open up the possibility to engage with the diary using humanities methodologies.


This research analyzes the text of
(支菴日記, 1692-1699), an 8-year-long diary written by a man named Yun Ihu, who lived on the southern coast of Chosǒn during the 17
Century. The diary is not only a record of his life, but also of his relationships with family, relatives, and others. Yun Ihu included not only details about his emotions, but also his travels and visits to see relatives; his consumption of medicines and foods; his involvement in land reclamation projects; his property management and construction; and his connections to historical events such as political party strife in the central government.

Analysis and the Method of Organizing the Digital Contents

The goals of this project are to digitalize the
, implement a visual navigation interface, and create the semantic connections among the digital archives of this Chosǒn historical text. To achieve these goals, we designed a DH methodology, which consists of 8 major steps, including text translation; content structure examination; noun and verb word extraction; concept, class and property, and semantic class relationship definitions, knowledge base construction; and visual navigation interface implementation.

Firstly, the original text of
(written in the cursive style Chinese characters) will be translated into Korean and then constructed into digital contents, which will be made public on the web as “Jiam Wiki”. Both the original and translated texts will be digitally restructured by date sequence.

Secondly, through the content analysis of the original
text, the conceptual elements (person, event, place, slave, literature, object, terms, weather, bibliography, reference, emotion, etc.) will be extracted and based on these, a semantic class model will be constructed and a multilateral data analysis attempted. Our class model will be called the Jiam Ontology, and conceptualize the extracted elements and establish the relationships between these as well as between elements and outside resources such as images, webpages, and ontologies of the subject history.

Thirdly, a visualization and navigation system of the Jiam Ontology will be created by using various digital technologies including Graph Database (Neo4j), Python visual libraries, and D3 JavaScript Library. Fourthly, the instance data construction of elements, such as actor-centered places, objects, persons, actions, emotions, and their interconnected analysis, will recreate a historical depiction of everyday life during the time; these will include, travel routes, the contents of letters, the use of gifts, and the roles slaves played in society. Finally, we will attempt to make a textual interpretation to investigate how the frequency of events or the distribution of time intervals can be applied to Complex Systems Theory. In addition, a quantitative analysis of the events, persons, places, and so forth appearing in the daily records of the diary will be performed. Through these attempts, the project will expand the scope of digital humanities research to human dynamics and Complex Systems Theory.

Impact of the Research

The digital text of
armed with ontology specification (RDF/OWL), visualization, quantitative analysis, and general interpretation, will offer a new research methodology as a case study of a DH-based diary research, and at the same time, will demonstrate the expandability of existing historical research on the Chosǒn period. By making the results of our work public on the web, we intend to increase the openness of DH researches and promote cooperative research internationally.

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