Human in the Data Fellowship Profile: Sultan Toprak Oker

Sultan Toprak Oker

Harmony of Discordance: Machine Vision, Alcohol Networks, and Taverns

Sultan Toprak Oker is using cutting-edge technology to analyze historical alcohol networks in 17th century Galata.

In summer 2020, with the support of a Human in the Data MnDRIVE Fellowship, I will be working on creating an original data set from the Islamic court records of the Ottoman Empire with the aid of machine-vision-assisted handwritten text transcription. This data set will include information about the social and economic features of alcohol networks and taverns of Galata, a cosmopolitan district of Ottoman Istanbul, in the 17th century. This data set will enable me to examine the district’s alcohol production, distribution, and consumption patterns at local and global scales. My project will act as a model for significantly expanding the scale of historical foodways research. It is also pioneering for promoting interdisciplinary studies by bringing together research methods of Humanities and Computer Science; developing new, technology-based methods for analyzing unpublished and uncatalogued manuscripts; and developing a technique to read historical Arabic-script handwriting.

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