This is a relatively short note about something that has been nagging at me for some time. Over the course of the first part of my EMiC-funded project – to digitize and create a database of the poetry, prose, essays and life writings of George Whalley – I have learned a great deal about editing for an edition, and specifically about the ways in which the digital environment facilitates versioning. It has occurred to me over the course of my work and while attending various conference panels on digital editing that perhaps we, as digital editors, are less attuned than we should be to recording the genesis of our own projects for institutional memory. The process of putting together a digital edition seems potentially endless. Whalley’s writings could easily take a lifetime to collect, digitize, and describe, let alone tag in TEI, explicate and annotate, and visualize using visualization tools. I wonder whether there is any sort of protocol for recording our editorial choices for the next person who takes up work on the author we are working on, or whether siloing and/or lack of such protocol dictates that scholars newly approaching the subject lose out on all justifications of the hard work done before, and have only the finished product from which to infer method. I think the issue of erasure of the “versions” of a digital versioning project is immediately relevant in light of the rapidity with which digital technologies are changing; if versions of a project could be saved as the project advances, it might be easier for future scholars to decipher (and repeat or diverge from) the modus operandi of their predecessors when attempting to migrate the final version to an updated information management platform.
What do people think of this? Is there a way to record the steps of digital production as there are on paper? Or are we stuck with the final product? Are we at risk of losing the justification of our work due to the erasure of genesis markers online?
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