Editing Modernism in Canada


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?

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