The Project

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An Integrated Geovisual and Transcription Project for Plasencia, Spain (circa 1390-1450)


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The Revealing Cooperation and Conflict project seeks to invigorate the humanities and public’s imagination by creating a visually-compelling, data-robust, and historically-lush digital world known as Virtual Plasencia. Our endeavor generates a 3D walk-through model of a key portion of the walled city of Plasencia (Spain) that reveals Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim interrelations. We aim to recreate the cooperative and challenging processes that emerged during this era of intercultural integration and violence in Spain and Europe. Our team will populate the 3D model by transcribing and indexing census-like events from Book One (1399-1453) of the Capitulary Acts of the Cathedral of Plasencia. The project assembles geovisualization experts, historians, geographers, linguists, and computer scientists in the U.S.A., Switzerland, and Spain as well as global “citizen scholars”. Our digital world delivers a portal for the public to immerse themselves within and an open-access data repository for scholars. This start-up project launches our broader team effort to model issues of identity and social disruption from the 14th-17th centuries.


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Statement of Innovation

Our project rallies new approaches to the study of cooperation and conflict by combining GIS, cartographic visualizations, and 3D models for a more accurate depiction of social, religious and political networks in Spain and Europe. It harnesses the power of the citizen scholar by crowdsourcing the transcription and indexing of historical documents. It implements a more flexible database scheme to capture non-linear relationships between agents and phenomena. It disseminates novel historical data using an intelligent, open-source virtual world and eBooks.[/lab_scroll_box]

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From the saved memories of Catholic churchmen, Jewish noble and merchant families, as well as medieval lords and knight clans, our endeavor revives long lost interactive and cooperative networks of people and places in Plasencia and Spain. The project focuses on interreligious affairs because archival evidence suggests that Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim relationships were far more integrated—both positively and negatively—than contemporary scholars and the public realize. For example, the pogroms of 1391 that led to large scale Jewish conversion to Christianity (forced and voluntary) and their eventual expulsion in 1492 led to enormous changes in social identity and communal boundaries creating new alignments in political, religious, and economic networks. By documenting such incidents and the interaction of noteworthy families, religious organizations, political networks, and economic partnerships, we will reconstruct the quintessential cultural dynamics that underlay the foundation of the Castilian world and its impact on Europe.

One of our main deliverables is Virtual Plasencia, an interactive 3D digital world, as well as all of its open-source databases, codes, and APIs. Virtual Plasencia and these materials will be hosted on a dedicated website–the centerpiece of our dissemination strategy. Our team will populate the interactive 3D model by transcribing and indexing census-like events from Book One (1399-1453) of the Capitulary Acts of the Cathedral of Plasencia. Within Virtual Plasencia users will be able to navigate the city and experience dynamic links that zoom into various visualizations, such as the intricate alliances that occurred in 1442 between Catholic clans, Jewish families, the church, and the seignorial nobility (see Appendix 1: Prototype A – Photographic Perspective of Virtual Plasencia). For example, users can view the home of Zanfines Capa, the Jewish chainmail maker, who was a close associate of the Carvajal family of knights. In this specific case, the Catholic Carvajal clan and their compatriots in the cathedral, the Santa Maria clan (formerly the Jewish Ha-Levis), leased church-owned properties to Jewish families (like the Capa) at the expense of their political competitors, the Catholic Estuñiga family (the Counts of Plasencia and Bejar). In this event, competing and overlapping political and religious jurisdictions are revealed as well as vibrant Catholic-Jewish alliances that sought to expel interloping secular lords.[/lab_scroll_box]

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Prototype A – Photographic Perspective of Virtual Plasencia


Panorama - Castellano


Our research will also situate the Cathedral of Plasencia, the defining institution of local life, within a network of cathedrals that negotiated with the Spanish Crown for the payment of ecclesiastical subsidies. It reveals how financial negotiations at the national level increased the cathedral’s power at the diocesan level. Visualizing these subsidies will expose the financial reach of Catholic religious foundations within the region and across the Iberian Peninsula. In this regard, the Cathedral of Plasencia regularly transferred monies to northern European bankers in the early sixteenth century, suggesting that the region was heavily integrated into European markets and political affairs. Our research will further delineate how local human action can shift institutional and mercantile systems behavior and how these systems in turn shaped human behavior.

To understand how this local history is connected to the broader European environment, the project will model two interconnected geographic scales–one micro and the other macro. The micro scale, which makes up the bulk of our work, will center on the city of Plasencia while the macro scale will expand beyond the city to the Iberian Peninsula and the European continent. For the micro, a detailed 3D model of Plasencia will provide a spatial context for the networks of power, faith, and kin. For this discrete project, we will model 30 percent of the city that includes portions of the Jewish quarter, the ecclesiastical zone nearest the cathedral, and a central neighborhood composed of noble families. (See Geovisualization Target Sites for Virtual Plasencia.) By actively navigating the virtual world, users will experience local networks (e.g., religious, family, etc.) and perceive how these relationships developed and changed over time. Switching back to the macroscale, users will be able to view changes within Spain and Europe as well as examine the ramifications of larger kingdom events (e.g., pogroms or expulsions). The strength of the project lies in the seamless interaction between the local 3D model of Plasencia and a set of highly interactive visualizations that bridge the micro affairs to key historical events. At the core of the project lies an innovative geodatabase that links social, economic, and demographic data with 3D models and geographic information. We will also test our Intentionally-Linked Entities (ILE) database scheme to advance new ways of relating data to itself. The project’s implementation will involve four key innovations. These innovations will be simultaneously developed and sustained. They include: (1) modeling Plasencia on the micro-level, (2) bridging Plasencia and its socio-economic influence to Spain and Europe, (3) transcribing of unpublished manuscripts to collect data to populate our virtual world, and (4) integrating historical and geovisual databases.[/lab_scroll_box]

Featuring the music of Colin McAllister: