The Playfulness of Academic Crossover

Author: TELDAP DVD Editor Huang Yaqin

Before I came in contact with the Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program (TELDAP), I had never thought about the unlimited potential of academic crossover and the many amusing concepts and interesting possibilities hidden within this extensive program. My initial impression was definitely not unfounded. Just try to look at the words “Taiwan e-learning and Digital Archives Program” and think about the kind of associations you can come up with—“super advanced digital technology,” “fragile antiques,” “study sheets,” and what else?
Do words such as interesting, fun, creative, and open ever come to mind? It is impossible! Is not it?
But once you enter the TELDAP website and become acquainted with the program, these words will leap out of your head when you make associations. 
Luckily, during my first learning experience on TELDAP, I encountered Dr. Qiu Pengsheng who opened the gate of this project and induced us to look at knowledge crossover and knowledge links with a more diverse perspective. 
Professor Qiu, an associate research fellow at the Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica and a gentle and refined historian, began by sharing the “ebb and flow” history of managing his blog. He stated that he often wrote history-related articles and posted them online, hoping to share his intriguing and fascinating history research with many people. However, he was very disappointed. Although he had spent a large amount of time and hard work to produce pieces that he considered outstanding, he got low click through rate (CTR). After failing to obtain popularity for his blog, Professor Qiu thought about public appeal and creativity. It was then he realized that the overall content of the Taiwan e-learning and Digital Archives Program (TELDAP) provided an unprecedented opportunity for academic crossover. By using TELDAP, Professor Qiu could create amusement from history and expand the breadth of thinking. 
He cited several examples and the Tan-Hsin Archives was one of them. The Tan-Hsin Archives are local-level files dating back to the midlate Qing Dynasty from the Tamsui sub-prefecture, part of which later became Hsinchu County. In the archives, there was an entry detailing a dispute over forest land. When Professor Qui first encountered the file, he viewed it as merely a lawsuit case, but through TELDAP's interdisciplinary integration of digital data, he was able to further reflect on other information. He discovered that the commercial crops planted on the forest land were Taiwan acacia, and wondered about a way to acquire a specimen. For him, history was not only linked to sociology, it was also related to botany, and perhaps even zoology. Therefore, Professor Qiu did not limit his research to the field of humanities, but started to pay attention to the dialogues and communication with natural sciences.
Professor Qiu also cited the folk festival, Dragon Boat Festival, as another example. From a historical and academic point of view, the historical study of the Dragon Boat Festival was confined to books and paintings about the festival from the Song, Ming, and Qing Dynasty. But once research across various academic disciplines via TELDAP was used, photos on modern-day dragon boat contests and short video clips on Taiwan's immigrant wives learning how to make Zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) found in the Exhibition of Cyber Island, Taiwan Project could be integrated with the original “story collections” and “painting collections,” making the image and significance of Dragon Boat Festival in the current era more tangible. Through such integration, a simple festival can reveal vast and complex information, triggering multiple perspectives of thinking. 
A few days later, I visited Professor Liao Xuangming from the Center for Geographic Information Science in the Academia Sinica, and he mentioned in the interview about his enjoyable experience with academic crossover. He pointed out that this project links spatial information and history very closely. For examples, in archaeological projects, the location of excavation sites must be recorded; when collecting specimens of plant and animals, the original collection site must also be recorded. Through advanced GIS technology, historical researchers could see the spatial distribution of artifacts in different time periods on the map, which also meant that the construction of spatial information also included the passage of time, branching out into the past, present and future. Professor Liao believed that academic history and geography were issues that GIS engineers could not have contemplated or come in contact in the past, but with the help of the resources from TELDAP, scientific technology and information collection could overlap and integrate. Furthermore, the cooperation between the different academic disciplines was made possible to enrich the cultural content of GIS and render the research much more interesting and challenging.
Now, try to make associations again. What comes to mind when you think of the Taiwan e-learning and Digital Archives Program? 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds…well, don't just think, quickly switch on the computer, and experience the fun of “academic crossover” online for yourself!