The title of the project effectively summarizes the project’s goals: to create a web tool that is able to:
- provide and allow dynamic access to some of the most significant resources relating to the Italian language and culture;
- stimulate users to provide thematic creative written and oral productions which will be gathered into a lively and ever increasing database of native speakers’ personal experience.
Our aim is to implement an OPEN AND INCREASABLE PORTAL OF THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE which may support and spread the use of this language abroad and arise awareness of it all over the world. Our attention will focus on: language in use and means to promote its knowledge; documenting cultural traditions, including major literary masterpieces; sharing and comparing resources. Information will be easily accessible to a plurality of users, who will access the portal also to compare and share their experience.
The portal is therefore intended for a diversified body of users, including specialists (Italian language, literature and culture scholars; educators; etc.) and inexpert users of any type, age, or geographical origin. Moreover, in order to meet the needs of users with writing difficulties (or reading difficulties, in the case of visually impaired people), the possibility will be offered of storing audio texts in a special thematically organized archive.
The portal aims at becoming a place where, through suitable interfaces, it is possible to: access organized resources; consult lexical archives; read (literary and non-literary) texts; use teaching tools; extract data and images relating to particular themes and connected to specific activities or historical periods; access encyclopaedic information; etc.. Among the tools that will be put at the user’s disposal there are the following (the list is not exhaustive): lexicons, text corpora, linguistic tools, teaching software, an interface for genealogical search.
A strong element of novelty in this project is the CREATION OF A COMMUNITY that may contribute to constantly increase the information in the portal by means of a “Wiki” co-operative writing system. Aware of the importance of personal experience, as it provides precious information about socio-geographical and historical situations, we intend to develop a tool that may allow the Italian people, currently geographically scattered, to preserve their culture from oblivion and transmit it to the next generations for consultation and analysis.
This highly dynamic part, which will be named WikiMemo (the WIKI OF MEMORY), will develop into a huge and ever increasing corpus of written Italian, and could also become an object of study. Starting from the free or thematic texts produced by users, it will be possible to create various sub-corpora and lexicons, divided according to author’s age, origin, topic, etc. These can be used for contrastive linguistic analyses, which will provide relevant feedback for designing specific types of teaching intervention.
Given that the average target user may not possess a high level of computer literacy, the information contained in the portal – primarily, but not exclusively, in its “Wiki” section – will have to be readily available. It will be therefore necessary to discard complex search interfaces, in favour of easy navigation and data retrieval. To this aim, the portal will include the following MECHANISMS OF INFORMATION AGGREGATION: Google-like free text search; (semi)automatic hyperlinking; thematic indexing (including the possibility to identify and stop undesired texts, such as pornographic ones).
Moreover, in order to make the written information accessible to VISUALLY DISABLED USERS, a special acoustic interface will be provided, based on efficient speech synthesis. Other users, and in particular those with lower computer literacy, will be able to take advantage of “talking agents” (moving images of male or female faces) which will simulate text reading.
Activities will be divided as follows:
- Activity 1: creation of the portal;
- Activity 2: information organization and retrieval;
- Activity 3: creation of corpora and lexicons, also for teaching purposes;
- Activity 4: multimodal interfaces.
These areas of activity will produce the following results:
- creation of the “WikiMemo.it” portal, which is expected to be used by an ever growing number of users;
- development of a system of information retrieval and information aggregation, which will be based on linguistic techniques and will be seamlessly integrated into the writing, editing and retrieving “wiki” component;
- creation of several dynamic corpora of written and spoken Italian, each referring to a specific group of speakers. These corpora will be freely expandable and accessible to all users;
- implementation of multimodal interfaces, based on text to speech synthesis, “talking faces”, and speech archives.