An Online Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC):
New Resources for Learning in the Humanities
All humanistic disciplines use the performing arts as subject matter for research and teaching: art and architectural historians treat masks, costumes, and theater buildings as art objects; a medieval studies scholar will examine the history of liturgical drama for insights into the role of the church in the middle ages; dramatic texts are an essential source for comparative literature, English, and other fields of literary study; gender roles as represented in theatre and as delegated among the artists are of importance to women’s studies and cultural studies scholars; and language, public speaking, and English as a second language teachers all find the performing arts a rich source of materials. Our project will further the study of the performing arts in the humanities by providing a rich selection of materials for students and scholars to explore.
The study of the humanities in the U.S. has gradually become more thoroughly international, not only because scholars recognize how much interaction there has been among cultures, especially in the last several centuries, but also because the population of the U.S. has become more diverse. Japanese culture, which has one of the world’s longest literary traditions, including dramatic literature from the 14th century, is a fascinating subject of study in its own right, and since the late 19th century the Japanese performing arts have also had a tremendous influence on western art, poetry, prose, theatre, and mass media, from Japonisme and imagism to film and anime. Our project will provide new resources and perspectives on the performing arts of Japan—and, more broadly, its culture and history—which will facilitate the research of scholars and provide teachers and students with innovative learning opportunities.
When a play is taught in a literature, history, or culture class, professors and students benefit by seeing the images and hearing the sounds associated with that piece. For years slides and film or video were the media of choice; now CDs, DVDs, and the Internet provide new and innovative alternatives. We have chosen to use the Internet because it permits anyone to access our resources from almost anywhere in the world, and no special distribution system is required. Not only can interactive and multimedia sites be created on the Internet, but the broad use of Unicode standards permits sites to become multilingual. It is still not easy to create sites with English and Japanese fully working together, but it is certainly doable and we are doing it. Scholars and students benefit from seeing research materials in the original languages of creation (in this case mostly Japanese), as well as in translations. In addition to being a resource for the humanities, our site can be fruitfully used for a variety of language learning activities.
The Web-based Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC) we propose includes both research sites with rich materials for students and scholars to explore and learning modules: interactive and interpretive presentations on a variety of topics. These units, each abundantly annotated with images, audio and video clips, and complex media objects, will be related though an interactive timeline, historical maps, an interactive glossary, and a general bibliography. Furthermore, each object will be entered into our Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD) where it will be accompanied by a wealth of descriptive metadata. Users of JPARC can link effortlessly to the database to examine an object in more depth or to explore its many relationships to other objects, people, or genres.
This proposal is an outgrowth of a project that has been underway for several years under the auspices of the Global Performing Arts Consortium (GloPAC), an international organization of institutions and individuals committed to using innovative digital technologies to create easily accessible online resources for the study of the performing arts. Our first major project, now nearing completion with the assistance of a three-year National Leadership Grant for Library-Museum Collaboration from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), was the creation of a metadata standard for the performing arts and the development of the Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD) structured around that standard.
The Global Performing Arts Database is a multimedia, multilingual, Web-accessible database containing digital images, texts, video clips, sound recordings, and complex media objects related to the performing arts around the world, all with elaborate descriptive and technical metadata. We have now entered approximately 4,000 digital objects into this database; those entered prior to our IMLS grant are now being more fully described using the new metadata standard. Many of the Japan-related records fall into this category. Selected searches highlighted on the GloPAD home page will retrieve records that generally include the most complete metadata. We are continuing with current funding and new grant requests to improve both the completeness of the metadata and the quantity of the objects in GloPAD. This is an ongoing project to which we are fully committed.
With NEH support, we propose to develop a model for the second stage of our project: the creation of Performing Arts Resource Centers (PARCs), Web-based learning environments designed to advance the study and teaching of performing arts worldwide. Including interactive and interpretive modules combining scholarly content with technological innovation, each PARC will have a specific focus, which may be cultural (Japanese), temporal (the 18th century), genre or thematically oriented (puppetry, gender in theatre), or audience oriented (teens).
PARCs will also provide a new venue for scholars who want to produce creative online publications (learning modules, reference materials, research data collections and resources). During the course of this grant, we will create tools and templates (e.g., an interactive timeline tool and templates for 3-D models) that will allow such scholars to employ recent technologies without needing advanced technical skills. PARCs will be actively connected to the database (GloPAD) to ensure a stable resource collection and to allow further exploration of material outside the given PARC module’s interpretive context. All new images used in PARCs will also be entered into GloPAD with full metadata records. If viewers of a learning module are particularly interested in an image that has only brief captioning in the PARC, they can click on it to access a larger version of the image, to peruse the full descriptive information entered into the database, including copyright and ordering information, and to access the relational structure of the database to find related images and records. Conversely, the creation of new PARCs will enhance the content of GloPAD.
We conceived the PARC concept in the late 1990s when we created an early prototype for a Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC), available at www.glopac.org/Jparc. The JPARC prototype contains some examples of the types of modules that hold great potential as resources for the study of the performing arts, including an interactive, bilingual text of the Noh play Atsumori; an electronic “slide lecture,” which illustrates several ways this typical classroom format can be broadened on the Web; an audio-video presentation of chanting The Tale of Heike that can be viewed with or without English subtitles; an interactive, image and audio annotated glossary; an interactive 3-D noh stage model; and a brief index of translations of noh plays.
This JPARC prototype only hints at what is possible once we employ more recent and sophisticated technologies. Even in its current simple form, however, this prototype has been well received in university classes on Japanese theatre and culture. With the support of an NEH grant, we propose to restructure this site, developing the current features of the JPARC prototype much more fully, as well as adding whole new topical sections that exploit new software and tools. The enhanced Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center will then serve as a model for future PARCs, which will be focused on a wide range of performing arts related topics.
We are very well positioned to begin development of the Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center thanks to a grant from the Japan Foundation that funded a JPARC planning workshop. Held in June 2005 at the National University of Singapore (NUS) under the leadership of Dr. Beng Choo Lim of NUS and Dr. Joshua Young from GloPAC, this workshop laid the foundation for the work that we propose to do during the course of the NEH grant by concentrating these scholars on the resources and research they could contribute to an online resource center and by establishing a communication system devoted to this project. There is a public website for the workshop, listing the participants and agenda. We have also set up a separate JPARC Working Group site where development ideas, materials, and models can be posted and used by this group of scholars, as well as a devoted email list to facilitate speedy communication. From our work developing the database we know the importance of maintaining communication systems and clear project histories. Nearly all of the participants who attended the workshop will be directly involved in the development of JPARC modules during the course of the grant.
Content and Design
With the help of an NEH grant, we intend to move well beyond our prototype to create a Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC) that will benefit scholars and students of the humanities who study Japanese culture, language and literature, comparative literature, art history, history of the theatre, social and cultural history, and other related fields. In addition, the tools we develop will be freely available for scholars in any subject area to adapt for their own use; we intend to adapt these tools ourselves for use on future non-Japanese oriented PARCs. Thus, in both the design of its structure and its technological tools, JPARC will serve as a proof-of-concept model for a new development in the research and study of the performing arts across time and place.
JPARC will be designed for use by university students and scholars and will concentrate on the traditional performing arts, especially the major genres of noh, kyogen, Bunraku puppetry, and kabuki. We will develop four different types of assets:
In addition to the more than 3,000 Japanese theater-related digital objects already entered into GloPAD, we plan to input approximately 1,000 new items, all of which will then be used to populate JPARC.
Reference Materials and Tools
Interactive Timelines. JPARC as a whole and many of its constituent parts will be contextualized by interactive timelines that link to the database. The main JPARC timeline will be composed of large units; if you click on a part of it, smaller, more detailed timelines will appear. The timeline will be bilingual, allowing a user to read it in English, Japanese, or both. Each research site will also have one or several more detailed timelines. For example, a notation for the noh playwright Zeami will appear on the main JPARC timeline indicating when he was active. If you click on Zeami, you will connect to a much more detailed timeline in the Zeami research site, which in turn will link to materials about his plays, critical writings, and people and events in his social milieu.
We are not simply interested in creating a complex timeline however; many sites have that. Instead, we propose to build an interactive tool that can easily be used by anyone to create a variety of timelines drawing on materials in the Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD). Using this tool, creators of modules within JPARC (and future PARCs) can develop their own, innovative or more detailed timelines, which will allow global users to link to the database and thereby easily expand the breadth and depth of their discovery. Because this interactive timeline tool will be freely available to any user, it could immediately be used in other humanities digital projects as well.
Interactive Historical Maps of Japan will be created to visually locate people, events, theatres, and their contextual data. Historical maps of Japan in the medieval, early-modern, and modern periods will give students and scholars a sense of the development of Japanese history and of Japanese geography; maps of Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo will show the locations of theatre districts during different historical periods. Other maps might show where the events in a particular play being studied occurred. This set of maps will also be available for scholars and students to download and use for their own purposes. Many of these maps will come from the excellent collection at the University of California at Berkeley. See Japanese Historical Maps Collection
Interactive Glossary of Terms The glossary in the prototype JPARC gives a good sense of what we wish to accomplish in our interactive glossary: terms will be listed in romanized Japanese with English translations of the terms, their Japanese script, and an audio link to illustrate the correct pronunciations. The explanatory notes contain cross-references to other glossary terms and hyperlinks to illustrative material in the database. We will not attempt a full glossary of terms from Japanese theatre (a tremendous undertaking) but will include the terms most useful in each learning module that we develop. The glossary will be set up to grow organically as these and future modules are created.
Index of Translations of Plays An index of translations of noh, kyogen, puppet, and kabuki plays will enable scholars and students to discover translations of specific plays in many languages. Our prototype contains a simple example of an index of noh play translations. While there are other bibliographies of translations that include plays, they do not focus solely on theatre and very often ignore obscure, non-English, and more recent translations that are important to specialists. This index will bring together and make public the personal bibliographies that our Japanese theatre scholars have compiled for their own uses.
Master Bibliography The bibliographies of each research site and learning module will be combined into a master bibliography, including links to online sites. The most important sources will have brief annotations. The bibliography of online sites will periodically be run through a program to ensure that all the links remain active. For this master bibliography as well as the translation index, we will set up a system to allow easy updating.
These sites bring together materials from GloPAD into topical units for research and study, and because they are linked to the database they will be constantly growing: new objects entered into the database will immediately appear in the research site. Furthermore, each site will have an interactive timeline and a table of contents so that students and scholars can quickly identify specific materials or areas of interest. The reference materials and tools delineated above will be used in sites as appropriate. Links to our database will also guide users to related items. Visiting a research site will produce the same pleasures and productivity that browsing in the stacks of a research library has traditionally generated; however, much more detail will be available at the click of a button. For example, if you find a text written by an unfamiliar author, you can click to see basic biographical information and links to other materials by him or her. The research sites we are proposing and the names of the institutions and scholars who are already committed to participating in their creation are listed here.
These modules are perhaps best compared to articles or books. Whereas the research sites include a minimum of interpretative materials, the learning modules will reflect the scholarly opinions of their authors. Each module will be reviewed by internal and external evaluators and then revised by the creators before it is finalized. The modules marked with an asterisk will be complete at the end of an NEH grant; the others will be working prototypes.
Each of these modules will be sections of the overall JPARC site. In the first phase of the project we will determine the site structure and devise the general navigation procedures within the site. Hyperlinks will be used generously to build paths between the various components. All of our participating researchers already use such technology in their work and are cognizant of the structures that best express the materials of their scholarly specialties. Our work on developing GloPAD’s editors’ and public interfaces has provided us with useful experience in designing this type of overall site.
The JPARC site will also include a section for a Web log (blog) that will facilitate the gathering of information on specific materials and general research and study issues. Open-source Web log software will be installed to allow us to post sample images with their data and elicit certain information about those items by offering viewers structured feedback/comment boxes. The software can be set up to restrict commenting to our community of scholars or to filter out comments by content or from unwanted sources. This system will complement on-going discussion forums such as the Pre-modern Japanese Studies (PMJS) mailing list by providing a direct link to archives of that list and offering a place for non-text material to be posted and considered.
During the first year of an NEH grant our activities would center around four workshops: 1) Noh and Kyogen in August 2006, 2) Bunraku and Kabuki in September 2006, 3) Theatre Prints and Historical Maps in November 2006, and 4) Learning Modules, in March 2007. In the first three workshops participants will come together to plan and to work on developing the various JPARC units; the fourth will include presentations and evaluations of drafts of the learning modules.
During the second year our emphasis will shift to an interactive process of evaluation and to dissemination. Periodic evaluation has always constituted a part of our process, and we propose to continue during this NEH grant.
Copyright laws and practices are certainly complex and variable, especially in the international sphere. Cornell University Library has established the Copyright Information Center to assist faculty and projects such as ours in dealing with these issues. We ask all our participants submitting materials to the database to be responsible for the copyright of their own materials, and we refer them to this office as well as to the comparable office at their own institute. With the assistance of the Cornell Library’s intellectual property officer and Cornell legal counsel, we prepared a permissions agreement that we ask each submitter to sign. The official agreement is in English, and it has been translated into Japanese and Russian as an aid to our partners in those countries.
Fortunately, much of the best research and teaching information for the traditional performing arts are historical materials in the public domain, and some contemporary actors are willing to cooperate in educational projects. The kabuki and noh national actors associations each have a centralized location for requesting permissions for use of images of their professionals. Problems do exist, especially with kabuki pictures and any recent videotapes, but the long-term relationships we are developing make us feel confident that we will find enough excellent material available to accomplish our goals.
No other Internet site attempts to pair scholarly work on the traditional Japanese performing arts with a significant collection of visual, multimedia, and reference materials drawn from major collections from all parts of the world. Some sites, such as the Japan Festival Education Trust 2001 sponsored Kabuki Story 2001 or the National Theatre of Japan and UNESCO sponsored An Introduction to Noh & Kyogen, and An Introduction to Bunraku, offer relatively thorough introductions to the arts with a small number of sample images and audio or video recordings. Another such explanatory site is set up as the digital brochure for the recent British Museum exhibition Kabuki Heroes on the Osaka Stage, 1790-1830, although this site does not display the range of materials in the exhibition.
A valuable site much used by scholars and upper-class students is the Japanese Text Initiative (JTI) at the University of Virginia Library, which offers searchable, online texts of classical literature in Japanese accompanied by English translations. This collection currently includes 13 noh plays and selections from 10 kabuki plays. JPARC will extend the use of these materials by linking specific items in our database to their texts.
Appendix D offers a fuller review of other online resources available, including Japanese databases of digital theatre materials and data, which are extensive but which require Japanese fluency and a high level of training in the field of pre-modern Japanese literature.
Nature and Structure of JPARC Interactivity
JPARC will be a Web portal: an online site that opens onto many Web pages with links between them and various interactive features. As Web pages, each article, timeline, slide show, and other feature will be searchable by standard text search engines. Hyperlinks will allow users to skip from one page and its contents to other JPARC pages. For example, clicking on the hyperlinked term hashigakari (bridgeway) in the Cultural Tour of the Noh Stage module will bring the user to the reference for hashigakari in the History of Noh and Kyogen Performance research site or to its description and pronunciation in the glossary. The JPARC prototype already displays this structure (e.g., terms in the Atsumori Interactive Noh Text and the Costuming slide show are linked to the Interactive Glossary, and terms in the glossary are linked to digital object records in the database).
A significant part of the design work for this grant will be setting up the structure to allow for good navigation and easy expansion of the site. Our experience with building the interfaces for GloPAD has given us a head start on this work. In the initial three-month phase of the project we will develop the overall site architecture for JPARC, including uniform Web page templates into which the contributor-researcher teams will put their content. This will ensure that from every page within JPARC a user will be able to navigate the entire JPARC site. The GloPAD public interface (www.glopad.org) is an example of this page template design using site-wide navigation links and a multilingual page structure that allows users to switch between five languages. The Web portal structure and encoding in Unicode will allow us to use both Roman script and Japanese (or other two-byte character scripts) in any of the pages. For this grant project we will not localize the site navigation in Japanese, but will integrate a bilingual approach to site text as much as possible. While in the future we intend to develop various discovery aids to be used specifically for the PARC site, for this immediate project we will create our pages following the guidelines of the W3C HTML and Unicode standards so that we can attach standard external searches to the site.
We will discourage putting links in individual units that go outside GloPAD and the PARCs to avoid the problem of link decay. With the assistance of technology advisors we will establish a JPARC convention for external linking that will make site maintenance most efficient and durable. For example, we may adopt a convention of putting all external links into endnote linkologies, where they can be edited separately and do not disrupt the body content of the module by becoming empty references. (An example of this is system is Wikipedia, which recommends that writers put all extra-Wikipedia links in a special endnote section for external links and endnote markers in the body of the articles.) Tools such as the timeline builder will incorporate this convention into its templates to ensure a stable environment. We will also use link-checking software to check every three months that all links on the site are active.
The Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC) is built on the foundation of the Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD), which has been developed with the support of Cornell University and other grants received by Cornell and partner institutions during the past several years.
The Cornell University Library (CUL) has generously supported the consortium’s projects from their inception, providing most of the staff to develop our early prototype database. Under an NEH grant we will continue to depend on the Cornell Library for advice and for technological services. Because this project is specifically about Japan, the lead Cornell unit is the East Asia Program (EAP). Since 2000, EAP has provided us with annual support from its National Resource Center grant, as well as with research assistance and staff support from its own resources.
Working in the new digital world provides new opportunities, pitfalls, and challenges for humanists. No longer can we simply produce scholarly works, anthologies, textbooks, and other teaching materials only with pen and paper, or even computer and paper. To meet the contemporary expectations of students and scholars, it is also necessary to create interactive materials available online. To accomplish this scholars require assistance from IT specialists, and financial support to develop appropriate and effective new systems. The scholars collaborating on this project are mostly contributing their time and talents, but good will and scholarly expertise needs to be supported by technological underpinnings. This is why a grant from NEH is so important to our success.
Staff and Participants
Karen Brazell is a well-known scholar of Japanese literature and theatre and has been the director of GloPAC since its inception in 1998. Her published works include the National Book Award winning Confessions of Lady Nijo. Her latest anthology, Traditional Japanese Theatre has been adapted for use in many classrooms around the world, and her works on noh performance with Monica Bethe are considered basic texts for scholars and theatre people interested in the subject.
Joshua Young received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 2003 and has been working with GloPAC as a research associate and project coordinator since then. He will continue as research associate under an NEH grant, and will be the lead participant in developing the learning module "Experiencing the Kabuki Theatre in the 18th-19th Centuries." Dr. Young has a good deal of experience in website development, having overseen the design and implementation of the database and its editors’ and public interfaces. The budget manager, Gina Cesari, who serves as the program manager in Cornell’s East Asian Program, has, in addition to her financial management expertise, an extensive background in theatre and theatre administration. Ann Ferguson, associate director of the Global Performing Arts Consortium, will participate in this project as a consultant for metadata and name authorities, as a member of the team to develop the timeline tool, and as a general internal evaluator. In addition, Dr. Ferguson will be a participant responsible for the learning module, "The Water Station."
This project brings together an impressive group of over thirty experts, many of whom have already done considerable work in preparing for this project. The scholars represent many parts of the U.S., Japan, the U.K, Singapore, and Russia; they teach in small liberal arts colleges and major public and private universities, and they range in experience from post docs to retired professors. The breadth and depth of their knowledge is astounding.
The process of interactive evaluation is an important part of our project. It is in fact one of the most stimulating aspects of collaborative work and hence one reason so many important scholars have agreed to participate. Our scholars will constantly depend on each other for constructive criticism and comments.
We have also established an external review panel, which includes distinguished Japan scholars and three experts on the use of digital technologies in education. Our three senior Japan specialists, Professors Samuel Leiter, Thomas Rimer, and Mae Smethurst, each have published many books and won national and international awards. For example, this year Professor Leiter was honored by the nation's largest academic theatre organization, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, with their Award for Excellence in Editing (Sustained Achievement in Editing category); Professor Rimer has been awarded the prestigious Order of the Sacred Treasure by Japan; and Professor Smethurst won a national award for her book of noh translations. To fully represent our field, we have included two more junior professors to serve as evaluators. Susan Klein, an associate professor at U.C., Irvine, has published one book and is completing a second on Japanese theatre and Buddhist/Shinto philosophy, and Elizabeth Oyler, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, has a book in press on The Tale of the Heike and organized an extremely successful international conference on the Heike and noh this past spring. Both of these scholars will also ask their students to evaluate JPARC.
Professor Paul Resta, Dr. Christa Williford, and Dr. Stacey Waters will serve as the external evaluators for the technical side of our project. Professor Resta is the Ruth Millikan Centennial Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Director of the Learning Technology Center, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin. He is an internationally recognized expert in instructional technology and is currently the Project Director for the NEH funded Presidential Timeline project. Dr. Christa Williford has been actively engaged for the past six years in the creation of online resources for the study of theatre; she has particular expertise in three-dimensional modeling and computer visualization of historic theater architecture and set design. Dr. Stacy Waters has been involved with computing in the arts and humanities since 1983 and has broad experience in research and teaching in this field. Dr. Waters currently serves as Research Coordinator for the Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities and for the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media at the University of Washington. The ongoing evaluation and technical advice from these three experts will inform both the planning and development of the JPARC research and learning sites.
JPARC’s effectiveness will also be evaluated in classroom settings. We will establish an evaluation process that faculty will use to provide us with feedback from themselves and their students. Ten of our participants have offered in their letters of commitment to use JPARC in their courses, and we will select at least ten other courses for our first tests, which will occur in the second year of our grant. We will supplement this evaluative process with statistical reports on the site activity created through the server logs.
During our ambitious database design and development project we introduced Global Performing Arts Consortium (GloPAC) projects through formal presentations at a variety of professional conferences as well as small, focused workshops for specific users of our database. For this project we will once again target certain academic conferences and will also offer JPARC as an electronic resource for review by journals in the fields of Japanese studies, Asian studies, and comparative literature and history. Among our participants we have many long standing members of associations such as the Council of East Asian Libraries and the National Coordinating Committee on Japanese Library Resources, and through them we will bring JPARC to the attention of a great range of university libraries and their users.
GloPAC is dedicated to the realization of a long-term vision, which Cornell University has supported for the past seven years and will continue to sustain in the future. As a founding partner of GloPAC, the Cornell University Library has made a commitment to support the Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD) and other related GloPAC digital projects by providing server space and ongoing maintenance. The Cornell University Library has developed and maintained over fifty digital projects and services. The combination of the Library's commitment, resources, and leadership in the field of digital archiving ensures the continued availability of the results of this project to users worldwide.
However, GloPAC aims to do much more than maintain its projects. Once JPARC is developed into a fully functioning site at the conclusion of an NEH grant, we will be in an excellent position to solicit further funding to populate the research sites with more materials as well as to create new units in JPARC. The tools and templates we will have developed with NEH support could also be employed to create new PARCs in other cultural, topical, or temporal areas. With JPARC as a model, we will approach foundations and individuals with interests in specific cultures or genres to support further development of our vision. An NEH grant will be an extremely important building block in this process.