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Research Projects of the University of Cologne‘s Faculty of Arts and Humanities


Living Systems in the Digital Humanities

Prof. Dr. Brigitte Mathiak | Data Center for the Humanities (University of Cologne); Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Frank Leymann | Institute of Architecture of Application Systems (University of Stuttgart)

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Research in the humanities has long been a digital practice as well. This is reflected i. a. by the methods of result validation. Alongside classic modes of publication, presentation systems, interactive visualizations, research databases, digital editions and virtual work environments have been established as digital instruments of result assurance. Accordingly, standardized data formats and databases play a central role in ensuring the sustainability and scientific replicability of digital knowledge artifacts. Therefore, traditional strategies and standards such as TEI-XML or OASIS-DITA already exist for the persistence of static data such as e. g. digital documents.
In contrast, research software has been a particular challenge in terms of securing long-term results. This is reflected by the lack of sustainability strategies for this category of digital research results and arises, among other things, from a problem called “software aging”, which research applications as “living systems” are subject to because, like any software, they cannot be considered independently of their runtime environment, i.e. their digital ecosystem. The continuous evolution of these environments causes software that is not constantly adapted to these changing environmental conditions, to become outdated over time and eventually unusable.
Within the framework of the DFG-funded cooperation project SustainLife between the IAAS Stuttgart and the DCH Cologne, we are working on a solution for this problem based on the OASIS standard TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications). Our goal is to identify frequently used key components of digital knowledge artifacts in the field of Digital Humanities, to model these in the open-source reference implementation OpenTOSCA, and thus to establish consistent and future-proof standards and sustainability strategies for research software.
The OpenTOSCA ecosystem consists of three components: the graphical editor ‘Winery’ for creating TOSCAbased application models, the runtime environment, ‘OpenTOSCA Container’ for automated provisioning and management of modeled applications, and the self-service portal ‘Vinothek’, which serves as a graphical user interface. The result of a TOSCA-compliant modeling of software systems is a so-called CSAR (Cloud Service Archive), which contains all the models, program artifacts, scripts, etc. required to provision the respective software and provides methods for its automatic provisioning and administration in any OpenTOSCA instance.

Text: Philip Schildkamp


Data Center fot the Humanities
Prof. Dr. Brigitte Mathiak

Researchers: Dr. Claes Neuefeind, Philip Schildkamp (DCH), Lukas Harzenetter, Dr. Uwe Breitenbücher, Johanna Barzen (IAAS)

E-mail c.neuefeind(at)