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EBTI 2001 Meeting Report

By Charles Muller
May 25-26, 2001

        The 2001 EBTI was held on May 25 and 26 at Dongguk University in Seoul. It was the first time since 1997 that the EBTI was held independently of the PNC or ECAI, and there were seventeen presentations in total. As usual, there was a mixture of presentations that consisted of updates of projects that had been presented at previous EBTI meetings, together with new project presentations.
        The character of the content of the presentations demonstrated the growing level of maturity that is coming into being in this area of application of digital technology to objects of research. Basic technological problems such as means of encoding texts and images have grown to be resolved and standardized to a significant degree. The input of the tripitakas of the Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan traditions has been completed; the XML markup system—little more than a hopeful vision a few years ago, is emerging as a commonly used platform for a variety of projects; usage of a single character coding system is also becoming much easier with the development of Unicode-supporting software.
        We are now becoming free to think about new levels of the implementation of technology-the development of various applications in themselves. Thus, it is not surprising that an increasing percentage of EBTI presentations deal less with how to gather/input and store data, tending to pay more attention to the limitless number of new analytical applications that can now be utilized. Along the same vein, now that a number of projects are reaching a certain level of fruition, we may now begin to ask how, exactly, they can be made to relate to each other, and how they may be made to complement each other. We are now reaching the stage where we might even be able to think about such things as a common interface for EBTI related projects, and a new digital Buddhist canon that interlinks all the various local canons, replete with an array of sophisticated analytical tools and reference works.
        The 2001 Meeting was hosted by the Electronic Buddhist Text Institute at Dongguk University. The conference was organized by the Ven. Han Bo-Kwang of Dongguk's College of Buddhist Studies, ably assisted by Dr. Lee Yong Kyu from Dongguk's Department of Computer and Multimedia Engineering. Much support was provided for the conference Dr. Suk Ku Song, the president of Dongguk University.
        The Meeting opened with addresses by President Song, Chairman of the Board Nok Won Oh, Ven. Jongnim of the Research Institute for the Tripiṭaka Koreana, and Ven. Bo-Kwang. These speeches, along with the conference papers, will be available in a forthcoming conference proceedings volume.
        On the afternoon of the 25th, we began the actual presentations. These were as follows:

13:30-15:30 Session 1: Textual Analysis(Chair: Charles Muller)

16:00-18:00 Session 2: Canonical Collections (Chair: John Lehman)

18:00-19:30 Reception (Main Room, Sangnok Hall)

On Friday night, we were treated to a delicious banquet, capped by a enthralling performance by the Shim Ka-Hee Kum dance group, a first-class troupe that specializes in traditional Korean forms of dance and percussion. Especially impressive was the final performance, in which three drummers in separate cubicles were led by a fourth drummer, with the first three swirling, dancing, and beating an array of drums in perfect synchronization with each other.

May 26, 2001 (Saturday)

10:00-12:00 Session 3: Online Reference Works (Chair: Christian Wittern)

13:30-16:00 Session 4: Characters and Encoding (Chair: Robert Chilton)

16:30-17:30 EBTI Business Meeting (Chair: John Lehman)

This was an especially important business meeting, in which issues were discussed concerning the future course of the EBTI. In its short decade of existence, the EBTI has witnessed dramatic changes in the development of digital technology, along with a concomitant, across-the-board maturation of many of its member projects. Thus, it can certainly be said that the current scope of the EBTI lies far beyond that of its initial role of an "initiative." Indeed, the basic input of the important Buddhist canons-- Tibetan, Pali, Korean, and Japanese-has been well accomplished. But these accomplishments have in turn led us to an equally challenging, and equally exciting new phase of our task, for which the end is still far from visible.

While the EBTI will no doubt be lending advice and assistance to fledgling input projects for some time to come, we have also clearly reached the stage where the focus will come to bear on the wide range of possibilities of what can be done with the data now that it is input. Thus, the focus of each one of the canon projects at this meeting was no longer on issue of input, but on application. Now, however, we need to think not only how applications can be developed, but how they can be developed in such a way that they are interoperable. To implement these aims, a variety of proposals were made and accepted. These, along with other related matters, were as follows.

1. The effort will be made to develop a more centralized and tightly organized EBTI, offering a central web site, and a secretariat, which can be the place for the beginning of a unified interface for the EBTI projects. As a site for this web site and headquarters, an offer was made on the part of the Electronic Buddhist Text Institute of Dongguk University to act as an ongoing central location. The staff members of this institute have secured the domain name of www.ebti.org for this purpose, and are beginning the process of applying to Dongguk University for formal recognition of this role, to obtain some measure of direct support from Dongguk.

2. The usefulness of the former arrangement of "regional representatives" was called into question. The suggestion was made that perhaps the central web site could simply offer contact addresses for representatives from different linguistic traditions, such as Korean, Chinese, Japanese, English, German, etc. This matter will be further explored by a working group, chaired by John Lehman.

3. A move was also made to establish a technical advisory committee, to which newer projects could turn to for advice. Christian Wittern was nominated to head this committee.

4. Elections were held for new chairpersons. The new EBTI co-chairs are Ven. Han Bo-Kwang (Dongguk University) and Charles Muller (Toyo Gakuen University). Ven. Jongnim, former co-chair, was named as honorary co-chairman. We hope to continue to benefit from his valuable input.

5. The announcement of invitation to the EBTI for participation in the September 2002 meeting of the Pacific Neighborhood Consortium (PNC) in Osaka was greeted with enthusiasm. Thus, the EBTI will fully participate in this meeting.

6. News will be forthcoming regarding the reports of working groups, and the efforts of the Dongguk EBTI to be formally accepted in their new status by the Dongguk administration.