Editing Modernism in Canada


Author Archive

June 10, 2011

Thinking through User Personas

In Meg Timney’s Digital Editions course at DHSI 2011, one of the concepts that was new to me was the development of user personas in planning a web-based project.  For many of us, the users that we want to ideally attract need to be tempered by the users who actually may use the site.  We need to design for multiple audiences, and we always need to be thinking (in my mind, anyway) about our most basic, least informed reader.  We need to be sure the site is user- friendly.  It is going to be a pedagogical tool, and as a result, we need it to be intuitive enough and accessible enough that even the “Bobbie Le Blaw”‘s of the world will be connected to our work.  By working through this process, I was forced to think more about user needs and competencies.

I have made this (kind of silly) user persona document as an initial way to think through our site as it will be used, instead of just how I would like it to be used.  Maybe this kind of thinking will be a helpful way for you to map out your own audiences, and acknowledge for yourself some user needs you had never thought of before.


User 1:  Disengaged Student User

Bobbie Le Blaw is a fourth year student in a second year class.  He majors in sociology, but thought he could take a couple of bird courses to coast his way to the finish line.  He is not particularly familiar with the field, and has no interest in becoming more informed.  He will come to the site if it is for an assignment approximately 12 hours or less before the due date.  He needs to access information quickly, and is way too impatient to read instructions or engage in a multi-step process.  He will click on two or three icons, want to copy a selection of text, and then get back to his twitterfeed.

User 2:  New Scholar

Liz Lemler loves poetry and F.R. Scott.  Ever since she read Sandra Djwa’s biography of F.R. Scott, she has wanted to know more about McGill Fortnightly, Preview and First Statement.  She has decided  to use these primary materials in relation to the published poems in books and anthologies to construct a first class final essay.  She has never looked at a periodical online before, but she is eager to please.  She wants the guideposts clearly laid out, and an FAQ and about this page.  Because she always strives to get an A, she also seeks out links to other secondary sources and biographical material from related projects.  But, since this is all new to her, she needs the steps to be clear and straightforward.

User 3:  Seasoned Scholar

Dr. Spacesuit is an Assistant Professor who is working on his second monograph.  Having recently published a book on Gender, Modernism and Dirty Socks in Canada, he plans to extend this framework to other forms of soiled laundry.  Already familiar with digital technology, he is interested in searching specifically for literary references to discarded or filthy clothing, and textile items that retain harsh odours.  Having developed his own set of keywords, Dr. Spacesuit wants to used advanced search features so that he can compile a database of these references across genres in music, film, poetry and drama.

User 4:  French Scholar

Mme Histoire is shocked to learn that a group of English Candians have developed a robust website about Quebecois periodicals.  The images of the magazine are in French, as are the transcriptions, but she is disappointed to find that the surrounding content is in English.  She has a passing knowledge of English, but as her second language, she relies heavily on Google Translate to navigate the website.  She likes consistency and icons that are repetitive to allow her to navigate the site without fluent English.  If she could print off the images with ease, she would like to make a handout or slideshow for teaching.

(With thanks to i-stockphoto.com for images)

June 5, 2011

Editing Le Nigog, Part Two: Advertisements

One of the primary goals of our Nigog periodical project is to re-socialize the text in its original context via a digital edition.  Periodicals have often been divorced from their context through the binding process, where the original advertisements were disregarded, leaving only the articles in libraries across the world.  Advertisements, often printed on newsprint with separated numbering, could easily be torn out before the magazines were bound into volumes.  This “hole in the archive”, as framed by Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman, removes the important interplay between two sides of modernist periodical production.  On one page, the little avant-garde magazines make manifestos and demand a critical rethinking of art and culture, but on the next there could be an advertisement for cigarettes, clothing or other luxury middle-to-upper class goods. Many magazines depended on advertising revenue to stay afloat.  The consumer messages of the advertisements, in part, create the space and conditions for the rest of the content. By placing the content back in its social situation by recovering these important pages, we make great strides in understanding the broader intertexts that shape the magazine’s diverse reading publics.

At Congress last week, Matt Huculak and I presented some preliminary research on Le Nigog focused on its advertisements.  It is these issues that I want to briefly touch on here.  Le Nigog’s advertisements are integral to properly socializing the text within the Montreal reading public it actively established and served. In the first ten issues, there are over 300 advertisements, with an average of ten pages of ads per issue. Though the advertisements are integral to our understanding of the text’s materiality, no reprint of the text to date has included them, and thus their role in establishing Le Nigog as a part of larger social and economic networks in Montreal has not yet been examined.

First and foremost, the advertisements of the Nigog offer us important data about readership demographics: not only what they were buying, but also what else they were reading, the kinds of cultural activities they may have pursued and the simple geographic area they were likely affiliated with. Most of the advertisers are clustered largely in downtown Montreal, where the meetings took place and where the editors could be reached by mail. I created a basic visual map to loosely plot the advertisers based on the addresses provided, which I will post after DHSI in Victoria.

The blue/purple marker on the map is the home of Robert Laroque de Roquebrune, the editorial headquarters of the magazine. Clustered around it, in red, are the business addresses. When the digital edition is created, the map will be corrected to match with 1918 landmarks and street
numbers, and we will be able to provide more data on the individual businesses and their products, as well as the frequency with which they appeared in the magazine. Many of these markers actually represent multiple businesses within the same building, something that will also be more clearly differentiated in the final edition.

A large portion of the advertisements are for Montreal libraries of different sorts: bookstores specializing in multiple languages, rare books, and magazines, as well as multi-purpose bookshops where you could also have embroidery work done, buy specialized stationary, bind your books, or even have some printing done. Librairie C. Déom, for example, features prominently in each issue of the magazine on the first page. This bookstore is touted as the dispensary of the Nigog. As the ad promises, the books featured in each issue were stocked alongside the magazine, marking the Nigog’s place within a larger, international print culture. Instead of simply accepting what was read within the magazine, the reading public of the Nigog is asked to actively engage in the discussion and contribute to the articles. A page long advertisement at the end of the first issue pointedly affiliates itself with established magazines and journals, creating an intellectual “to-read” list. Like the manifesto of the journal itself, the advertisers are invested in building up print culture in Canada, and here rely on expanding the existing framework to
include more focused, specialized discussions of the arts for middle-brow readers.

Ideally, our advertising database will also be able to demarcate and extend the multiple links between the advertisers and contributors. For example, of the five musicians offering lessons in the magazine, two are contributors: Leo-Pol Morin and Rodolphe Mathieu. While their articles attempt to extend the discussion of modern music and establish their critical authority, their advertisements are quite traditional: Mathieu offers lessons in musical theory, harmony and counterpoint, while Morin offers piano lessons. These specialists use their criticism to sell their services, and also to generate an audience for their own recitals and public performances. Morin in particular also uses the advertisements in this way, with three issues advertising a performance in April, two of which include a full program. Morin’s agent, Henry Michaud, also advertises within the first few issues of the magazine, offering the middlebrow music-for-hire at parties and events of various sizes. This advertisement uses several markers to establish authority in the field: Michaud is affiliated with “the Standard Booking Office” in New York, and his clients include two artists with signed record deals from Columbia Records.

The avant-garde artists, writers and architects in Montreal that contribute to the magazine exist in a tightly knit social web.  As we begin to read the advertisements in relation to the content, new and complex relationships are brought to light.  We are not only able to read Canadian modernism in new ways, but we are also able to more fully historicize and socialize what we read in the diverse culture milieu that brought it into being.

See Also:

Editing Le Nigog Part One

In Search of a DH Repository

February 17, 2011

Editing Le Nigog, Part One: Planning a Digital Periodical Project

As we all know, the little magazine is a fundamental part of the production of modernist culture in Canada and across the globe.  Various seminal texts, including Ken Norris’ The little magazine in Canada, 1925-80, Louis Dudek’s The Making of Modern Poetry in Canada and Dean Irvine’s Editing Modernity: women and little-magazine cultures in Canada, 1916-1956 have argued for the little magazine as the site at which multiple modernisms have emerged across Canada.  While little magazine production is (arguably) at its highest in the 1940s and 50s, we are hoping to look backward, identifying for English audiences what could be the first French Canadian avant-garde periodical, Le Nigog, which ran for twelve issues in 1918.  While this work is widely known in French Canadian circles, its place in English Canada is completely obscure.

For the last six months, EMiC Post-doctoral fellow Matt Huculak has been working on the early stages of the EMiC commons and co-operative spaces that he describes in an earlier post here.  As a self-confessed luddite, I happily have enjoyed skirting the edges of this technology. While he has been working on the back end, I have been responsible for developing content for the site, so that it is immediately operational once the actual programming has been figured out.  It is through this role that I began work on Le Nigog, and first began to explore the material reality of periodical preservation and began to actively cultivate its future as a digital edition.

This is the first of  a number of posts that chart the progress of this project, beginning today with an examination of the project management side of DH work, focusing largely on hunting down information and allocating resources.  Before the magazine hits the scanner, myself, as well as several new EMiC volunteers, Dancy, Katherine and Adrien, have been conducting detective work to 1) locate the magazine, 2) identify the contributors, and 3) begin the process of creating biographies and confirming copyright using death dates.

Le Nigog had only a limited circulation (approx 500 readers, according to Patricia Merivale), and therefore one of our most difficult tasks has been locating copies of the work in their original, unbound form.  We are interested in preserving the complete texts, including advertisements.  Since it was common practice to bind this type of text, the advertisement pages, which were on a different paper and numbered differently, were often torn out and not included in the final text.  In order to fully socialize the text, it is integral to our project to include these advertisements as a part of the material condition of the magazine’s production.

I have only been able to locate nine copies of the magazine in libraries and archives across the country.  Of those nine, only one complete, original set existed, and this copy was not available for viewing, except on-site in the archives.  It definitely would not be available for a project of our kind.  The copy we were able to procure was held privately, and while in excellent condition, we still currently only have the first ten issues.  Numbers 11 and 12 remain elusive, and none of the libraries across the country have these two issues in their original form.  So, the search for the actual magazine will continue on, though this is no longer our priority.

Using the issues we have, as well as a facsimile print edition of the text, I compiled a list of all the contributors, and then began the arduous task of tracking them down.  With the copyright legislation in mind, I needed to determine which articles are now in the public domain, and which estates we would need permission from to reprint their work.

Because the periodical spanned literature, architecture, music and visual art, we have had to approach locating different contributors within their own discipline and its method of documenting its past.  Starting with the literary biography, music encyclopedia, and history of Montréal architecture, we have begun to piece together the various lives of the contributors.  Once we have been through these normal avenues, we have cast the net wider, and are now chasing down fragments, hunches, false leads and passing references to find the contributors and start their biographical sketches.  Currently, of the thirty or so contributors, nine are in copyright.  Three have no confirmed death dates, and continue to be on the run.

I am going to save copyright reflections for a later post. The last thing I want to talk about is our project management tools.  To help the five of us share information, we have been highly dependent on one central spreadsheet.  Early on, we decided that this document should be virtual, so that all information is shared to all participants and can be accessed from any location.  We use google docs, and so far have been quite happy with that tool to span the whole project.  We distribute tasks, track our hours and maintain a working bibliography all using these tools.  That way, the moment one person discovers something, all records are updated.  We have also started to download and save the documents onto our computers regularly as a form of additional backup.  Once we start scanning and manipulating the images, they will have to be held in a central location with a backup until the co-op comes online.  With the co-op we should be able to store images at various stages centrally, mimicking the research stage of our work while expanding its capacity and possibilities threefold.

October 26, 2010

Reflections on EMiC CEP 2010

As I sit down this morning to reflect on the Editorial Problems Conference that wrapped up this weekend at U of T, I find it difficult to generalize about the diversity, engagement and talent of all the various speakers who talked about their various editorial projects, identified problems, and, most importantly, offered some fascinating theoretical and practical solutions to the issues of editing a period in Canadian literature to both regenerate public interest and recover texts that may have been out of print for decades.

While this list is by no means comprehensive, I thought I might take a few minutes to distinguish a few things I learned and got thinking about as a result of this conference.  I’d love to see what other people were thinking about, and perhaps see this list become collaborative to reflect the very rich conversations, both on and off stage, that accompanied our time together.

1.  We have come a long way. Beth Popham, who self proclaims her project as involving basic “dinosaur” technology and frames, was able to suggest how fast things have moved since she and Zailig Pollock independently tackled the works of Behind the Log and the poetry and letters of E.J. Pratt.  Her important distinction between the different models of socialization (letters to illuminate poetry vs poetry to illuminate letters) offered a dualistic method of applying McKenzie’s theories about Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts to a digital “complete works” project.

2.  We still have a long way to go.  Meagan “Steve Jobs” Timney illustration of some of the hopeful features of the new IMT 2.0 taught us about the difficulty of creating new technology, and got us excited about drawing unique shapes around parts of the text to mark them up and edit them in new ways.  The role of the image in creating a more transparent editorial intervention into a text combines the power of digitization with a new ability to annotate, moving out of the realm preservation and toward a new kind of scholarly edition.

3.  We need to theorize the scholarly edition to better fit our own editorial projects.  Concepts such as Dean Irvine’s question about scholarly unfinishedness, Hannah McGregor’s discussion of multiple authorship and editorship, Kailin Wright’s inclusion of both con-text and copy-text and Bart Vautour’s event-based editing are just a few of the ways in which we were offered an opportunity to re-imagine the methodologies and theoretical frameworks that are the starting point of our editorial approach.

4.  We need to continue to build on a collaborative model of editing, both across generations and across projects.  The mentorship model which was so prevalent in the Sheila Watson and Wilfred Watson roundtable, cropped up across various projects, including in the emerging scholars roundtable, and the two technologies and collaboration panels.  When graduate students spoke of their RA work on EMiC projects, the goal was not simply to facilitate the senior scholar’s own editorial goals, but also to provide the tools to encourage independent work by the junior editor.  For massive projects that are similar in scope, such as the P.K. Page and Watson projects which are in similar early stages, it became clear that sharing resources and ideas across projects would allow for innovation and a greater sense of efficiency for both works.  Workflows and guidelines currently in development by Matt Huculak in collaboration with Meg Timney in the near future will allow for common standards across all EMiC affiliated projects.  The EMiC Commons and MiCA Archive (Coming Soon!) will be excellent forums for sharing research between scholars both within and across projects.

5.  We need to think about the pedagogical impacts of our editorial work in the classroom.  Vanessa Lent suggested expanding our mentorship model into the classroom through experiential learning and scholarly editing practices.  Peter Webb talked about the fear of “fromming” in selected teaching texts, while also emphasizing the value of short print editions to encourage the appearance of our work on University Syllabi and in the hands of general readers.

6.  We need to think both big and small. For each large recovery project, for Miriam Waddington, Gabrielle Roy, Martha Ostenso and Wilfred Watson, there is also an individual volume for Eli Mandel, Ernest Buckler and Elizabeth Smart.  These two recovery models will impact scholarship in different ways, and are particularly affected by institutional support and independent research funding.

7.  We need to think in print and online.  Many projects combine both print editions and digital apparatus, or distinct print and digital editions.  We need to explore in more detail the idea of a hybrid text, as well as determine what the benefits are to using this model to describe these works versus a model in which the two components are separate and distinct.

8.  We need to keep thinking about these things together and keep the conversation going.  Future conferences, the EMiC blog, workshops, conference proceedings, special issues, classroom teaching, TA meetings, RA meetings, department meetings, Skype, twitter, DHSI, TEMiC and ACCUTE are just a small number of the forums in which we can continue to broach these multiple issues and find common and individual solutions.

I want to end this post by thanking, once again, all of the various people who helped bring this conference to life.  Thanks to co-convenors Dean Irvine and Colin Hill, University of Toronto and the Conference on Editorial Problems for giving us a forum, Kailin Wright and Brandon McFarlane for accommodations and technology, Vanessa Lent for her incredible administration.  To all the others, acknowledged and not in the program for the conference, as well as all the participants and presenters, thank you!

June 9, 2010

Since we are fantasizing…

The really engaged posts on the EMiC blog have really got me thinking… If we put all this effort into developing the “EMiC” brand of digital mark-up…  Would it be possible to create an online graduate journal, or something similar, within which we could publish samples of our projects? Hosted through EMiC, or partnered with EMiC, but a distinct entity?

This way, like Chris suggests, we could develop a “house style” which all our projects could conform to, but also use and develop.

 It could be a collaboration, by both humanities scholars, digital humanists and other computer scientists.  If we worked with them to develop the tools we’d need to start out and get the ball rolling, then we would be able to self teach through forums like the DHSI summer course.

Some of the small projects we might be interested in pursuing don’t necessarily have a forum for publication.  This would give graduate students a chance to learn new technology, and then have an immediate application for it.  They would know that their work had a possible “home” within the journal.

Obviously this is looking a little bit longer term, but it would be really amazing if we were able to lay the groundwork for this in the next few years, while we have an EMiC to support and engage us.

Perhaps it could be split into two parts, half scholarly articles about editing in print and online, and half documents or editorial projects that are entirely born digital.

I realize that I am perhaps being a bit over ambitious…  But I couldn’t help but take it to the next level.  Thoughts??

Did I take it too far?

Did I?

June 8, 2010

IMT and the P.K. Page Digital Edition

Well team, I tried to give us a good plug at this morning’s talk.  Given the large size of our contingent this year, I thought it was important to let people know a bit about the project as a whole.  And, it also gives us a chance to define ourselves for ourselves, and remind us of who we represent while we are here.

Though I don’t know how to do it, I am going to attempt to post some of the sections from my talk today on the blog.  They provide a taste of the IMT, which we will get a bigger helping of on Friday when Zailig & Meg give us a quick peek into the project in its current development.  This also helps follow in Dean’s footsteps in the reconfiguration of his talk as a blog post.


Read the rest of this post »

June 7, 2010

My New Word of the Day: Prosopography

Yes, my friends, I have learned a new word this afternoon.

Prosopography.  Check it:


June 7, 2010

Initial Reflections from Day One: Lunch

Here it is, lunchtime on day one of the DHSI.  As I happily munch on lunch with my fellow roommates, I feel a tinge of jealousy that I can’t retake the TEI Fundamentals course.  This year, we are lucky enough to have 14 of the 19 EMiC participants enrolled in that class.  Having that large a group to commiserate with is very helpful at the early stages of learning a new language.  As P.K. Page struggles and goes silent because of the overwhelming nature of learning Portuguese in Brazil, so I too struggled with learning a language of angle brackets and abbreviations that has been a bit suppressed since my last visit to Victoria.

Returning now with a fresh face, I feel re-engaged with the digital tools.  My new course, Transcribing Primary Sources, is much more invested in the bibliographic and social text features of the text.  Matt just spent half an hour talking about all the ways you can describe the scribes who wrote the text and how to mark specific regional geography to “map” the transmission of the text.  How awesome is that?

Because lunch is fast wrapping up, the last piece of news I want to share is about our afternoon project.  I am doing digital mark-up fill in the blank!  This guy definitely understands my abilities.  I get to go hunting for the right information, but I also have the safety blanket of knowing that in this case there is a “right answer” which I can try to find.

Back to work, and I can’t wait to talk (and read!) about your experiences at DEMiC today!

June 7, 2010

REMINDER: Friday Lunch Meeting

Just a friendly neighbourhood reminder that this Friday we have another EMiC meeting and lunch. Details to follow!

June 7, 2010

The First Meeting

It is finally here!  The bunnies are hopping, the sky is grey, and the sleep-deprived, jet lagged EMiC contingent finally comes together.

After a bit of a rough start with no A/V and an unexplained lost pizza order, when I arrive on scene forty minutes before the meeting, my confidence is slightly shaken.  I dig through my backpack for my “backup” laptop and USB key, and  I interrupt a lady in a chef’s hat.

“Excuse me, but do you know if this room is equipped with A/V?”

Blank stare.

“I apologize, but do you know where I could set up a power point presentation?”

Blink, blink.

“I need to use a computer for this meeting and I need a screen to project the image on.  Do you have any idea who I might contact?”

Mouth starts to fall open.

“Can you tell me where our pizza is?”

“OH!  It’ll be here just after seven.  Sorry about that!”

It’s all good.  I can work with this.

I survey the room, note the large amount of M&M cookies, and I breathe a sigh of relief.  People like cookies.  And, these tables move.  We are good to go.  When Zailig arrives, the number of laptops double.  Megan comes, and now we have three.  From this point forward, it is smooth sailing.

As the participants trickle in, my heart is filled with joy.  They are here, they are happy, and everyone has a bed to sleep in.  My work here (in this regard) is complete.

As we set up “viewing stations” and plug in the presentation on each laptop, I realize that this is a far more communal experience than watching a powerpoint on the big screen.  People huddle together, talking and laughing as the set-up process takes place.  Happy visions of networking and collaboration are made tangible.

Zailig brings the meeting to order after intros have taken place.  He clarifies he is reading Dean’s paper, and then goes straight into it.  Dean’s personal anecdotal remarks are not altered.  Zailig uses Dean’s personal pronoun, much to my delight.  As he regales us as “Dean”, I remember listening to this talk two weeks ago.   Then, I flash back to meeting Dean for the first time at DHSI last year.

What an impressive learning curve this project has experienced in the last year.  If it wasn’t clear before, it is definitely clear now:  Dean is a super-human.  I can’t believe all the work (and heart) he, Megan, Zailig, Vanessa (… and all of you!) have put into bringing Editing Modernism in Canada into its second year, and its second DEMiC.  It is such an exciting time.

Though I have plenty more I could say, I just want to express my delight that you are all here.  It is going to be a great week, and I look forward to visiting with all the DEMiC participants throughout the week.

Goodnight, friends.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.