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  • serpilozcan

Dıgıtal Humanıtıes and Hıstory of Lodge Studıes

Digital Humanities, which its name has been heard frequently in recent years, emerges as a new and innovative field suitable for use in many different sciences and research. Besides being a branch of science, it is also a tool that allows producing new questions to create more research in various fields such as history, sociology, and even literature, thus enabling to make many diverse and in-depth expansions. In this blog post, I would like to talk about my studies in the field of history using Digital Humanities as a new method.

During my research, I deal with the relations between the dervish lodges established in Istanbul in the 19th century and the inhabitants of the lodges within the city. Spatialization is one pillar of this work. The primary sources used in the study are the lodge lists that are displayed below:

Using these lists, we determine the name of the lodge, its district, the day of worship, and its tariqah. Using another similar list and a comparative technique we determine whether the lodge has an alternative name, another naming of its district, and, if any, membership of another tariqah. We also get similar information comparatively from similar lists. When you convert all this data into a database using Excel the result is going to look like this:

In this list, a database emerged, categorized under 25 different headings, created from the information obtained from 22 lodge lists. It can be quite difficult to follow the results through a document. However, information categorized on a spreadsheet becomes more understandable. Then I used visualizations, spatializations, positioning to make this excel spreadsheet comprehensible. When dealing with space and location, the method that is befitting to the task is to use geographic information systems.

It is sufficient to use ArcGIS or a similar program for the task. You can add the location information on the map using GIS. Also, you can reach your desired goal by using the various tools that the program provides according to the type of information you want. Of course, making our excel spreadsheets GIS compatible is important.

This means the "standardization of data". Non-standardized data is one of the factors that make it difficult to use the database.

By making these arrangements, we need to obtain a clean excel file so that our simple mistakes do not turn into important obstacles while working on GIS. In addition, we will need columns containing the coordinates of the points to be marked on the map, one for latitude and one for longitude.

In my MA thesis, I used 70 maps categorized around various topics based on location information. Some of them are displayed below:

GIS can work within geographic information systems. In other words, you need to provide location information to the program and other location-related information. For example, in my work, I needed to know where the lodges are therefore I've identified most of the locations.

  • Where are the lodges?

  • Which of these lodges belong to which tariqah? What day do they pray? Is there any other lodge nearby?

  • What buildings are nearby?

  • Where is it located, is it inhabited or not?

  • How is the site, is it flat or slope, is it a hill?

These are all questions and information I used about the location.

Although I only used the ArcGIS program in my thesis, in research I conducted later, I sought an answer to the question of how to use GIS more effectively and how I could include other digital methods. In my work on Üsküdar lodges, I used another method of spatially analyzing the interactions of lodges with each other.

After I had the locations of the lodges, I was interested if I could calculate the distances between the lodges based on their proximity to each other?

ArcGIS provides a tool to calculate distances based on the transportation duration you specify.

For example, you can calculate an area within a diameter of 5 minutes walk. For the lodges that are almost next to each other, we can easily see that these lodges are within the sphere of influence of each other, with only a 5-minute walking distance. For the Üsküdar lodges, this presents a view like this:

You may read the explanation of the map in my article which is going to be published in the XI. Interanational Üsküdar Symposium Booklet.

Lodges can appear as members of a different tariqah in each lodge list. Leaving the “reason why” for another time, I explored what this data could tell us. Again, I used one of the opportunities offered by digital studies as a comparison tool. GIS would not be an adequate program for this task. For this reason, I had to use a program called GEPHI, which analyses social networks.

GEPHI works using matrixes.

You can prepare your matrix either on the program or in Excel. So you can't use your actual database here. You should prepare a separate table containing the properties and relationships you want to reveal in the program. I prepared a matrix in Excel. Since I deal with the relationship between the lodges and the tariqahs, I prepared an excel table like this:

The criteria of the table, which consists of 0 and 1's, is prepared completely based on your data set and is specific to it. As you can see, there are two variables here. One is lodges and the other is tariqahs. You can edit these variables according to your topic and dataset. For example, clubs and members, students and courses, students and schools, scholars and teachers, people and places, etc.

GEPHI allows you to make various calculations according to the possibilities of your dataset.

As you can see, it is enjoyable to use thanks to its visual qualities.

However, since my dataset is only suitable for interval calculation, I used this feature. In other words, by choosing the main characters as tariqahs, I have obtained information such as how many tariqahs in Üsküdar lodges belong to, the number of lodges belonging to a single tariqah, which tariqahs with multiple lodges are, and which tariqahs are associated with which tariqahs. We can summarize this information as which is more popular, which is introverted, which is extroverted, which lodges are in contact.

I would like to say that digital humanities methods not only make your work interesting but also offer you new questions that you may not have thought of before. Not only that but it also allows you to find previously unconsidered answers to these questions. . You re-evaluate your resources with a brand new point of view and find answers that you cannot find in classical methods. With this opportunity, you have the chance to analyze even the sources that have already been examined as if they were newly found documents.

In conclusion, considering the context of the history of Sufism, evaluating the lodge lists, which is a classic document type, with digital methods has brought a much more important awareness. I was able to learn that apart from being religious institutions, lodges affect the formation of the city, create, develop and transform it. Thus, the lodges can be defined as an “urban focus”. If we had not used this method, we would have missed this crucial point.

Serpil Özcan

Marmara University

PhD. Candidate


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