Editing Modernism in Canada


Archive for June, 2010

June 11, 2010

Standardisation & its (dis)contents

At lunch today a few of us met to talk with Meagan about strategies for standardising our projects, including personographies and placeographies, so as to make our various editions as interoperable as possible and to avoid duplicating each others’ labour. By happy chance we were joined by Susan Brown, who mentioned that CWRC is also working towards a standardised personography template which it might make sense for us to use too, given that EMiC will be one of the projects swimming around in the CWRC ‘fishtank’ (or whatever the term was that Susan used in her keynote).

One outcome of doing this is that our EMiC editions and authors could then be more easily connected by researchers to literatures outside Canada – eg. through the NINES project – which would be brilliant in terms of bringing them to the attention of wider modernist studies.

Meagan and Martin are, unsurprisingly, way ahead of TEI newbies such as me to whom this standardisation issue has only just occurred, and they are already working on it, in the form of a wiki. But, as Meagan said, they would like to hear from us, the user community, about what we would like to see included. Some things will be obvious, like birth and death dates, but might we also want to spend time, for example, encoding all the places where someone lived at all the different points in their life? That particular example seems to me simultaneously extremely useful, and also incredibly time-consuming. It also seems important to encode people’s roles – poet, editor, collaborator, literary critic, anthologist etc – but we need to have discussions about what that list looks like, and how we define each of the terms. Then there are the terms used to describe the relationships between people. What does it mean that two people were ‘collaborators’, for instance? (New Provinces has six people’s names on the cover but the archive makes it very clear that two of them had much more editorial sway than the others.) And how granular do we want to get with our descriptions?

As for placeographies: as I’ve already said on the #emic twitterfeed, one very easy way to standardise these is to ensure we all use the same gazetteer for determining the latitude and longitude of a place when we put in our <geo> codes. I suggest this one at The Atlas of Canada. Once you have the latitude and longitude, there are plenty of sites that will convert them to decimals for you (one example is here).

As Paul pointed out, it’s worth making the most of times when we meet face-to-face, because as we go along, our projects will change and our analytical interests will be clarified, and the things we need to encode will only make themselves clear gradually. So let’s take advantage of the summer institues and conferences to talk about the changing needs of our projects, and our evolving research questions, because it’s often quicker to have these conversations in person.

Perhaps others who were around the table could chime in with things I’ve forgotten or misrepresented. And for everyone: what are your wish lists of things that you’d like to see included in our -ographies?

June 10, 2010

project[ive] verse

I don’t know about you guys, but this morning’s TEI class was so useful for me because we began to see the ways in which digital projects can give us new ways of visually conceptualizing relationships between authors / publishers more generally and editions / edits on the level of text.  For me, the key line was that such projects “allow the reader to set up their ideal reading environment” by choosing the elements they wanted to see and use in the documents.  Giving such power to the reader challenges all our established ideas about author/reader/editor configurations and I truly believe that these shifting power dynamics are exactly the self same ones that our modernist writers (let’s say Wilfred Watson’s grid poetry, for example) were striving towards.

I think such tools and technologies, if we can think creatively enough about them, are going to offer us some very powerful ways to take the EMiC project to groundbreaking places in terms of our own conceptualizations of Canadian modernism.  What sorts of projects can we imagine?  Bart noted that being able to visualize the relationships between publishers, presses, and authors would be an invaluable tool for us.  What about being able to compare editorial practices between our authors?  How do F.R. Scott and A.J.M. Smith’s styles compare?  Are there gender breakdowns between editorial practices?  Et cetera, ad infinitum, yadda yadda yadda.

June 10, 2010

digital anti-humanism?

Does anybody know if there has been much theorization of digital anti-humanism?

June 10, 2010

Speaking in Metaphors

With my now mandatory cup of java in hand to fight the jet lag, I take my charmingly wobbly seat in the Henry Hickman Building eager to hear another great round of Graduate presentations.  I was particularly enthusiastic this morning, as two of the presentations included the terms “Visual Representation” and “Curating” in their titles respectively – could these be indexes to the topics of visual arts or the handling of images in digital humanities (something I haven’t heard much [enough] about yet this week and which is central to my interests)?

No dice.  Well… this isn’t entirely true.  At least the paper with the promising “Visual Representation” in its title was about visual art—the Graffiti Research Lab to be specific.  I won’t go into much discussion about that presentation here (although I would be pleased to hear what others thought of it), because I want to focus on the other presentation that had a sexy, but somewhat misleading, title:  “Curating as Research: Digital Humanities and the Study of Culture in Real-Time.”  The presentation had little to do with visual art, and little to do with art or archival curation.  The premise: social media as curation.

The metaphor of social media as curation, although intriguing, sat uneasy in my mind for a number of reasons.  I know the expression “digital curation” is a widely used phrase; but today the term “curator” was presented as a signifier for the ideas of “aggregating” and “presenting”—central activities of blogging, twittering, facebooking, etc., and which are supposedly related to art or archival curation.  I started to feel sympathetic for any possible curators in the room, whose professional expertise was (in my opinion) greatly scaled down to two tasks.  Ultimately, my discomfort with the metaphor really got me to thinking about metaphor.  Why have a number of digital humanists this week  felt compelled to “metaphorize” their roles, tasks, projects and what are the implications of analogizing the profession?

The question brings to mind Zailig and Emily’s paper on the Digital Page and “Respect des fonds,” which some of us read at TEMiC the other week.  If I recall correctly, the brilliant  authors caution against the metaphor of the “digital archive,” which “conceals the fact that rather than being a new and improved version for the postmodern age…[it] is conceptually no different than the pre-modern archive-as-collection. . . .” Digital collections are useful; but they are not the same as a fonds or archives.  In fact, it may be the differences between these two resources that merit consideration and emphasis, and not the similarities.

My biggest concern is that by analogizing the role of digital humanists, we may be delimiting a fictive and unsuitable space for ourselves in the realm of scholarship and research.  What I mean to ask, in this coffee-induced unsophisticated way, is:  when we graph the activities and contributions of digital scholarship and research onto other well-known models of scholarship and research, do we risk imposing limitations on the field and under-acknowledging the value of what we do, and what others do?  Or am I being overly critical?  Besides the obvious communicative function, what value is there in speaking in metaphors?

June 9, 2010

The Reflex

I’ve been discovering this week at DHSI that I don’t really know what I talk about when I talk about digital humanism. As someone who also talks about modernism, and Canadian modernism, and labour, and print, this fogginess is nothing new. It might even be productive.

The tools we are encountering, and the ways in which we work through them, are restructuring the ways we think about text, and place, and time. Our conversations about the digital realm and the boundaries of our various disciplines are a key part of relating to these very technical concepts and grappling with the future we are propelled toward. But we’re also talking about the way we relate to modernity and how the issues we are confronting right now are also a way of reaching through to the earlier moment that we have taken up as modernists.

I have been considering the ways in which modernist print betrays anxieties about modernity through reflexive styles of rhetoric and form. Giddens has discussed how modern self-conceptions depend on constantly ordering and re-ordering social relations to accommodate continual knowledge input. It is a process of selection and shaping – not determinism; the modern actor is self-defined and highly conscious of the world around her. I’ve been considering the conversations floating around DHSI, and our own para-conversations here and elsewhere, as part of a reflexive field. As a researcher, I have to redefine myself and my position constantly to account for new tools and approaches. As a reader, I begin to connect texts and ideas in ways I was blind to before. As a conscious actor, I have to try to filter through a world of potential to find what has meaning to me and what fits to who I am. The reflex, as I experience it, is about redefining oneself as much as it is about kickback. It’s destabilizing, and exhilarating.

Vanessa’s post reflecting on the ways TEI’s structures work to enforce typographic codes, even as these codes were challenged by many modernist writers, shows so much insight into the way our tools can force us to re-think our texts – or to reify what was once revolutionary. I want to consider our conversations in the same way. I become absorbed in the intensity of a good conversation, and have had a few already. I am an inveterate gesturer. Pub stools make for good conversational bases. I want our conversations to flow back and forth from screen to stool and back again with fluid boundaries. I will do my best this week to seek out more voices and challenge more of my thoughts on these tools and approaches. I invite you to join me (and to try to convince me about Twitter…)!

June 9, 2010

A Voyeur’s Peep] Tweet

To build on Stéfan Sinclair’s plenary talk at DHSI yesterday afternoon, I thought it appropriate to put Voyeur into action with some born-digital EMiC content. Perhaps one day someone will think to produce a critical edition of EMiC’s Twitter feed, but in the meantime, I’ve used a couple basic digital tools to show you how you can take ready-made text from online sources and plug it into a text-analysis and visualization tool such as Voyeur.

I started with a tool called Twapper Keeper, which is a Twitter #hashtag archive. When we were prototyping the EMiC community last summer and thinking about how to integrate Twitter into the new website, Anouk had the foresight to set up a Twapper Keeper hashtag archive (also, for some reason, called a notebook) for #emic. From the #emic hashtag notebook at the Twapper Keeper site, you can simply share the archive with people who follow you on Twitter or Facebook, or you can download it and plug the dataset into any number of text-analysis and visualization tools. (If you want to try this out yourself, you’ll need to set up a Twitter account, since the site will send you a tweet with a link to your downloaded hashtag archive.) Since Stéfan just demoed Voyeur at DHSI, I thought I’d use it to generate some EMiC-oriented text-analysis and visualization data. If you want to play with Voyeur on your own, I’ve saved the #emic Twitter feed corpus (which is a DH jargon for a dataset, or more simply, a collection of documents) that I uploaded to Voyeur. I limited the dates of the data I exported to the period from June 5th to early in the day on June 9th, so the corpus represents  the #emic feed during the first few days of DHSI. Here’s a screenshot of the tool displaying Twitter users who have included the #emic hashtag:

#emic hashtag Twitter feed, 5-9 June 2010

As a static image, it may be difficult to tell exactly what you’re looking at and what it means. Voyeur allows you to perform a fair number of manipulations (selecting keywords, using stop word lists) so that you can isolate the information about word frequencies within a single document (as in this instance) or a whole range of documents. As a simple data visualization, the graph displays the relative frequency of the occurrence of Twitter usernames of EMiCites who are attending DHSI and who have posted at least one tweet using the #emic hashtag. To isolate this information I created a favourites list of EMiC tweeters from the full list of words in the #emic Twitter feed. If you wanted to compare the relative frequency of the words “emic” and “xml” and “tei” and “bunnies,” you’d could either enter these words (separated by commas) into the search field in the Words in the Entire Corpus pane or manually select these words by scrolling through all 25 pages. (It’s up to you, but I know which option I’d choose.) Select these words and click the heart+ icon to add them to your favourites list. Then make sure you select them in the Words within the Document pane to generate a graph of their relative frequency. If want to see the surrounding context of the words you’ve chosen, you can expand the snippet view of each instance in the Keywords in Context pane.

Go give it a try. The tool’s utility is best assessed by actually playing around with it yourself.  If you’re still feeling uncertain about how to use the tool, you can watch Stéfan run through a short video demo.

While you’re at it, can you think of any ways in which we might implement a tool such as Voyeur for the purposes of text analysis of EMiC digital edtions? What kinds of text-analysis and visualization tools do you want to see integrated into EMiC editions? If you come across something you really find useful, please let me know (dean.irvine@dal.ca). Or, better, blog it!

June 9, 2010

version this…

starting to learn some possibilities for versioning…

<linkGrp type=”alignment”>
<link targets=”#nf #mq #cpt #cvii #rmos #sis”/>
<link targets=”#nfs.01 #mqs.01 #cptss.01 #cviis.01 #rmoss.01 #siss.01″/>
<link targets=”#nfs.02 #mqs.02 #cptss.02 #cviis.02 #rmoss.02 #siss.02″/>
<link targets=”#nfs.03 #mqs.03 #cptss.03 #cviis.03 #rmoss.03 #siss.03″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.01 #mql.01 #cptsl.01 #cviil.01 #rmosl.01 #sisl.01″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.02 #mql.02 #cptsl.02 #cviil.02 #rmosl.02 #sisl.02″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.03 #mql.03 #cptsl.03 #cviil.03 #rmosl.03 #sisl.03″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.04 #mql.04 #cptsl.04 #cviil.04 #rmosl.04 #sisl.04″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.05 #mql.05 #cptsl.05 #cviil.05 #rmosl.05 #sisl.05″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.06 #mql.06 #cptsl.06 #cviil.06 #rmosl.06 #sisl.06″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.07 #mql.07 #cptsl.07 #cviil.07 #rmosl.07 #sisl.07″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.08 #mql.08 #cptsl.08 #cviil.08 #rmosl.08 #sisl.08″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.09 #mql.09 #cptsl.09 #cviil.09 #rmosl.09 #sisl.09″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.10 #mql.10 #cptsl.10 #cviil.10 #rmosl.10 #sisl.10″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.11 #mql.11 #cptsl.11 #cviil.11 #rmosl.11 #sisl.11″/>
<link targets=”#nfl.12 #mql.12 #cptsl.12 #cviil.12 #rmosl.12 #sisl.12″/>

June 9, 2010

Scaling the Digital Humanities: Presentation Report

Yesterday afternoon, Zailig and I presented EMiC to the folks in Ray’s Scaling course. Since Dean is taking care of his newest child (EMiC being his first, of course), it fell to me and Zailig to describe the project. I began by giving a brief overview of EMiC, guided by the “about” page on our project website. I then went on to discuss how EMiC imagines and realizes the relationship between three central nodes: graduate student training, digital tool development, and the summer institutes. I wanted to commence my discussion of scaling with an introduction to the Editing and Publishing course that Dean and I co-taught at Dalhousie. I talked specifically about how we used our experiential learning class as a model for the EMiC summer institutes (TEMiC, in particular). I emphasized how the experiential learning class flattens the hierarchy between student and teacher, and I pointed to the collective learning process as a strength of this particular class. It strikes me that this is indeed one of the strengths of the digital humanities in general. In a field where the symbiotic relationship between technical and theoretical expertise is paramount, it is often the case that junior scholars teach the older generation the necessary technical skills.

In the second part of my portion of the presentation, I wanted to touch on one of the main challenges that we faced in the EMiC digital initiative: the creation of an online community. As some of you know, our first attempt at EMiC online inspired less community activity than we had hoped. I blame it in part on my decision to use a drupal platform. For such a small group of users, the complexity of the blog, forum, status updates, and user profiles was more a hindrance than a catalyst to online discussion. The community site was also separate from the EMiC website, which meant users had to make an extra effort to login, post, and keep up with the EMiC social network. Eventually, Dean and I agreed that we would reconceptualize the EMiC online community when we started thinking about the new EMiC site. I explained to the Scaling group that the simplicity of wordpress seems to invite blogging, whereas the multiple writing spaces of the drupal platform scared people away. And I was happy to report that the newest iteration of the “community” site is already much more active than our old drupal site!

After I discussed both the experiential learning classroom that informed our EMiC training model and the challenges that we faced in creating a bustling online community, Zailig took over and gave a summary of Dean’s talk, “A New Build: EMiC Tools in the Digital Workshop.” Zailig touched on the four important aspects of the EMiC’s digital tool initiatives: image-based editing and markup, digitization, text analysis, and visualization (see Zailig’s report).

The presentation was well received, and I think that in the absence of our fearless leader, Zailig and I did a good job of explaining to the group some of the important aspects of the Editing Modernism in Canada project. I’m looking forward to today’s discussion, and excited to see what the future holds!

June 9, 2010

Thinking ahead to Easter 2011 …

The energy and momentum of our DHSI sessions have got me thinking ahead to a conference next year which would be a great showcase for EMiC projects and participants: the 2011 British Association for Canadian Studies conference from 4-6 April 2011. It’d be particularly apt as it’s to be held at the University of Birmingham, which is the one and only partner institution for EMiC in the UK, and which is my own institution. If any EMiC-ites are planning to be in the UK around Easter 2011, it would be fabulous to have an Editing Modernism panel at BACS. I can’t think of a single digital humanities paper I have ever seen at that conference, and I can only imagine people there would be amazed and inspired by seeing the kind of work that Emily & Hannah showcased in the grad student colloquium yesterday. And by Easter next year there’ll be many more projects, and I’d love my colleagues in the UK to hear about them.

It is a long way, of course, and the flights are expensive, but there are occasionally small pots of random funding for grad students and others that pop up (see for example these). I thought it was worth mentioning this far in advance in case anyone had plans to be in Europe anyway for research or for another conference. Karis & I talked about it briefly at TEMiC so there’s a chance that she might be able to make it. If it’s of interest to anyone else then please get in touch.

June 9, 2010

EMiC @ DHSI in pictures

Emily, Chris et. al. were gracious enough to welcome us into their home-away-from-home for a little get-together this evening at DHSI. Fun was had – there’s photographic evidence: