Editing Modernism in Canada


Posts Tagged ‘Digital Editions’

April 8, 2014

Creating Your Own Digital Edition Website with Islandora and EMiC

I recently spent some time installing Islandora (Drupal 7 plus a Fedora Commons repository = open-source, best-practices framework for managing institutional collections) as part of my digital dissertation work, with the goal of using the Editing Modernism in Canada (EMiC) digital edition modules (Islandora Critical Edition and Critical Edition Advanced) as a platform for my Infinite Ulysses participatory digital edition.

If you’ve ever thought about creating your own digital edition (or edition collection) website, here’s some of the features using Islandora plus the EMiC-developed critical edition modules offer:

  • Upload and OCR your texts!
  • Batch ingest of pages of a book or newspaper
  • TEI and RDF encoding GUI (incorporating the magic of CWRC-Writer within Drupal)
  • Highlight words/phrases of text—or circle/rectangle/draw a line around parts of a facsimile image—and add textual annotations
  • Internet Archive reader for your finished edition! (flip-pages animation, autoplay, zoom)
  • A Fedora Commons repository managing your digital objects

If you’d like more information about this digital edition platform or tips on installing it yourself, you can read the full post on my LiteratureGeek.com blog here.

January 26, 2014

Experimental Editions: Digital Editions as Methodological Prototypes

Cross-posted from LiteratureGeek.com. An update on a project supported by an EMiC Ph.D. Stipend.

My “Infinite Ulysses” project falls more on the “digital editions” than the “digital editing” side of textual scholarship; these activities of coding, designing, and modeling how we interact with (read, teach, study) scholarly editions are usefully encompassed by Bethany Nowviskie’s understanding of edition “interfacing”.

Textual scholarship has always intertwined theory and practice, and over the last century, it’s become more and more common for both theory and practice to be accepted as critical activities. Arguments about which document (or eclectic patchwork of documents) best represents the ideal of a text, for example, were practically realized through editions of specific texts. As part of this theory through practice, design experiments are also a traditional part of textual scholarship, as with the typographic and spatial innovations of scholarly editor Teena Rochfort-Smith’s 1883 Four-Text ‘Hamlet’ in Parallel Columns.

How did we get here?

The work of McKerrow and the earlier twentieth-century New Bibliographers brought a focus to the book as an artifact that could be objectively described and situated in a history of materials and printing practices, which led to theorists such as McKenzie and McGann’s attention to the social life of the book—its publication and reception—as part of an edition’s purview. This cataloging and description eventually led to the bibliographic and especially iconic (visual, illustrative) elements of the book being set on the same level of interpretive resonance as a book’s linguistic content by scholars such as McGann, Tinkle, and Bornstein. Concurrently, Randall McLeod argued that the developing economic and technological feasibility of print facsimile editions placed a more unavoidable responsibility on editors to link their critical decisions to visual proof. Out of the bias of my web design background, my interest is in seeing not only the visual design of the texts we study, but the visual design of their meta-texts (editions) as critical—asking how the interfaces that impart our digital editing work can be as critically intertwined with that editing as Blake’s text and images were interrelated.

When is a digital object itself an argument?

Mark Sample has asked, “When does anything—service, teaching, editing, mentoring, coding—become scholarship? My answer is simply this: a creative or intellectual act becomes scholarship when it is public and circulates in a community of peers that evaluates and builds upon it”. It isn’t whether something is written, or can be described linguistically, that determines whether critical thought went into it and scholarly utility comes out of it: it’s the appropriateness of the form to the argument, and the availability of that argument to discussion and evaluation in the scholarly community.

Editions—these works of scholarly building centered around a specific literary text, which build into materiality theories about the nature of texts and authorship—these editions we’re most familiar with are not the only way textual scholars can theorize through making. Alan Galey’s Visualizing Variation coding project is a strong example of non-edition critical building work from a textual scholar. The Visualizing Variation code sets, whether on their own or applied to specific texts, are (among other things) a scholarly response to the early modern experience of reading, when spellings varied wildly and a reader was accustomed to holding multiple possible meanings for badly printed or ambiguously spelled words in her mind at the same time. By experimenting with digital means of approximating this historical experience, Galey moves theorists from discussing the fact that this different experience of texts occurred to responding to an actual participation in that experience. (The image below is a still from an example of his “Animated Variants” code, which cycles contended words such as sallied/solid/sullied so that the reader isn’t biased toward one word choice by its placement in the main text.)

Galey’s experiments with animating textual variants, layering scans of marginalia from different copies of the same book into a single space, and other approaches embodied as code libraries are themselves critical arguments: “Just as an edition of a book can be a means of reifying a theory about how books should be edited, so can the creation of an experimental digital prototype be understood as conveying an argument about designing interfaces” (Galey, Alan and Stan Ruecker. “How a Prototype Argues.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 25.4 (2010): 405-424.). These arguments made by digital prototypes and other code and design work, importantly, are most often arguments about meta-textual-questions such as how we read and research, and how interfaces aid and shape our readings and interpretations; such arguments are actually performed by the digital object itself, while more text-centric arguments—for example, what Galey discovered about how the vagaries of early modern reading would have influenced the reception of, for example, a Middleton play—can also be made, but often need to be drawn out from the tool and written up in some form, rather than just assumed as obvious from the tool itself.

To sign up for a notification when the “Infinite Ulysses” site is ready for beta-testing, please visit the form here.

Amanda Visconti is an EMiC Doctoral Fellow; Dr. Dean Irvine is her research supervisor and Dr. Matthew Kirschenbaum is her dissertation advisor. Amanda is a Literature Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland and also works as a graduate assistant at a digital humanities center, the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). She blogs regularly about the digital humanities, her non-traditional digital dissertation, and digital Joyce at LiteratureGeek.com, where this post previously appeared.


November 4, 2013

Infinite Ulysses: Mechanisms for a Participatory Edition

My previous post introduced some of my research questions with the “Infinite Ulysses” project; here, I’ll outline some specific features I’ll be building into the digital edition to give it participatory capabilities—abilities I’ll be adding to the existing Modernist Commons platform through the support of an  EMiC Ph.D. Stipend.

My “Infinite Ulysses” project combines its speculative design approach with the scholarly primitive of curation (dealing with information abundance and quality and bias), imagining scholarly digital editions as popular sites of interpretation and conversation around a text. By drawing from examples of how people actually interact with text on the internet, such as on the social community Reddit and the Q&A StackExchange sites, I’m creating a digital edition interface that allows site visitors to create and interact with a potentially high number of annotations and interpretations of the text. Note that while the examples below pertain to my planned “Infinite Ulysses” site (which will be the most fully realized demonstration of my work), I’ll also be setting up an text of A.M. Klein’s at modernistcommons.ca with similar features (but without seeded annotations or methodology text), and my code work will be released with an open-source license for free reuse in others’ digital editions.


So that readers on my beta “Infinite Ulysses” site aren’t working from a blank slate, I’ll be seeding the site with annotations that offer a few broadly useful tags that mark advanced vocabulary, foreign languages, and references to Joyce’s autobiography so that the site’s ways of dealing with annotations added by other readers can be explored. Readers can also fill out optional demographic details on their account profiles that will help other readers identify people with shared interests in or levels of experience with Ulysses.

On top of a platform for adding annotations to edited texts, readers of the digital edition will be able to:

1. tag the annotations

For Stephen’s description of Haines’ raving nightmare about a black panther, a reader might add the annotation “Haines’ dream foreshadows the arrival of main character Leopold Bloom in the story; Bloom, a Jewish Dubliner, social misfit, and outcast from his own home, is often described as a sort of ‘dark horse’“. This annotation can be augmented by its writer (or any subsequent reader) with tags such as “JoyceAutobiography” (for the allusions to Joyce’s own experience in a similar tower), “DarkHorses” (to help track “outsider” imagery throughout the novel), and “dreams”.

2. toggle/filter annotations both by tags and by user accounts

Readers can either hide annotations they don’t need to see (e.g. if you know Medieval Latin, hide all annotations translating it) or bring forward annotations dealing with areas of interest (e.g. if you’re interested in Joyce and Catholicism)

Readers can hide annotations added by certain user accounts (perhaps you disagree with someone’s interpretations, or only want to see annotations by other users that are also first-time readers of the book).

3. assign weights to both other readers’ accounts and individual annotations

As with Reddit, each annotation (once added to the text) can receive either one upvote or one downvote from each reader, by which the annotation’s usefulness can be measured by the community, determining how often and high something appears in search results and browsing. Votes on annotations will also accrue to the reader account that authored those annotations, so that credibility of annotators can also be roughly assessed.

3. cycle through less-seen and lower-ranked editorial contributions

To prevent certain annotations from never being read (a real issue unless every site visitor wishes to sit and rank every annotation!)

4. track of contentious annotations

To identify and analyze material that receives an unusual amount of both up- and down-voting

5. save private and public sets of annotations

Readers can curate specific sets of annotations from the entire pool of annotations, either for personal use or for public consumption. For example, a reader might curate a set of annotations that provide clues to Ulysses‘ mysteries, or track how religion is handled in the book, or represent the combined work of an undergraduate course where Ulysses was an assigned text.

I’m expecting that the real usage of these features will not go as planned; online communities I’m studying while building this edition all have certain organic popular usages not originally intended by the site creators, and I’m excited to discover these while conducting user testing. I’ll be discussing more caveats as to how these features will be realized, as well as precedents to dealing with heavy textual annotations, in a subsequent post.

First Wireframe

In the spirit of documenting an involving project, here’s a quick and blurry glance at my very first wireframe of the site’s reading page layout from the summer (I’m currently coding the site’s actual design). I thought of this as a “kitchen sink wireframe”; that is, the point was not to create the final look of the site or to section off correct dimensions for different features, but merely to represent every feature I wanted to end up in the final design with some mark or symbol (e.g. up- and down-voting buttons). The plan for the final reading page is to have a central reading pane, a right sidebar where annotations can be authored and voted up or down, and a pull-out drawer to the left where readers can fiddle with various settings to customize their reading experience (readers also have the option of setting their default preferences for these features—e.g. that they never want to see annotations defining vocabulary—on their private profile pages).

I’m looking forward to finessing this layout with reader feedback toward a reading space that offers just the right balance of the annotations you want handy with a relatively quiet space in which to read the text. This project builds from the HCI research into screen layout I conducted during my master’s, which produced an earlier Ulysses digital edition attempt of mine, the 2008/2009 UlyssesUlysses.com:

UlyssesUlysses does some interesting things in terms of customizing the learning experience (choose which category of annotation you want visibly highlighted!) and the reading experience (mouse over difficult words and phrases to see the annotation in the sidebar, instead of reading a text thick with highlightings and footnotes). On the downside of things, it uses the Project Gutenberg e-text of Ulysses, HTML/CSS (no TEI or PHP), and an unpleasant color scheme (orange and brown?). I’ve learned much about web design, textual encoding, and Ulysses since that project, and it’s exciting to be able to document these early steps toward a contextualized reading experience with the confidence that this next iteration will be an improvement.


Because code modules already exist that allow many of these features within other contexts (e.g. upvoting), I will be able to concentrate my efforts on applying these features to editorial use and assessing user testing of this framework. I’ll likely be building with the Modernist Commons editing framework, which will let me use both RDF and TEI to record relationships among contextualizing annotations; there’s an opportunity to filter and customize your reading experience along different trajectories of inquiry, for example by linking clues to the identity of Bloom’s female correspondent throughout the episodes. Once this initial set of features is in place, I’ll be able to move closer to the Ulysses text while users are testing and breaking my site. One of the things I hope to do at this point is some behind-the-scenes TEI conceptual encoding of the Circe episode toward visualizations to help first-time readers of the text deal with shifts between reality and various reality-fueled unrealities.

Practical Usage

Despite this project’s speculative design (what if everyone wants to chip in their own annotations to Ulysses?), I’m also building for the reality of a less intense, but still possibly wide usage by scholars, readers, teachers, and book clubs. This dissertation is very much about not just describing, but actually making tools that identify and respond to gaps I see in the field of digital textual studies, so part of this project will be testing it with various types of reader once it’s been built, and then making changes to what I’ve built to serve the unanticipated needs of these users (read more about user testing for DH here).

To sign up for a notification when the “Infinite Ulysses” site is ready for beta-testing, please visit the form here.

Amanda Visconti is an EMiC Doctoral Fellow; Dr. Dean Irvine is her research supervisor and Dr. Matthew Kirschenbaum is her dissertation advisor. Amanda is a Literature Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland and also works as a graduate assistant at a digital humanities center, the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). She blogs regularly about the digital humanities, her non-traditional digital dissertation, and digital Joyce at LiteratureGeek.com, where parts of this post previously appeared.

October 26, 2013

What if we build a digital edition and everyone shows up?: “Infinite Ulysses”, Klein, and exploring complex modernisms together through participatory editions

An update on a project supported by an EMiC Ph.D. Stipend.

Digital humanities productions (editions, archives, or other digital engagements) are increasingly sites of broader participation in textual interpretation, with how to evoke and harness “meaningful” crowdsourcing becoming an increasingly urgent question to scholars seeking a more public humanities.

Elsewhere, I’ve discussed how borrowing the HCI (human-computer interaction) idea of “participatory design” can help digital humanities practitioners and their public audiences to mutual intellectual gain. As we use the Web to open the texts we study to a wider community of discussion, bringing in diverse knowledges and interpretive biases, I’m interested in how we can usefully structure the overabundance of information proceeding from public/crowdsourced contextual annotation of literary texts (contextual annotation means notes that give a context for a word, phrase, or other chunk of text, ranging from definitions of advanced vocabulary to more interpretive annotations). That is: my “Infinite Ulysses” project (one of several code/design projects forming my literature dissertation) is conceived as a speculative experiment: what if we build an edition and everyone shows up and adds their own annotations to the text, or asks and answers questions in the textual margins? When this quantity of voices is combined with an unusually complex text such as James Joyce’s Ulysses—or works developed in response to Joyce’s writing, as with A.M. Klein—how might we create a digital edition critical experience that adeptly handles not only issues of contextual annotation quantity but also quality?

In addition to improving the ability of EMiC scholars to share their editions of Canadian Modernists with a wider, more participatory audience, I will test the scholarly use of this interface with two specific texts—a short work by Canadian author A. M. Klein subsequent to his introduction to the works of James Joyce, and Joyce’s Ulysses. This dual testing will let me trace resonances and dissimilarities between the two writings, developing a better understanding of how Klein’s Modernism built on and diverged from his readings in Joyce. Juxtaposing these two works allows me to apply the wealth of existing theorizations and questions about a digital Ulysses to the work of a far-less-often digitally theorized Canadian author—an extremely useful knowledge transfer packaged with a reusable participatory editing interface. EMiC’s generous support of a year of my dissertational work (through one of its Ph.D. stipends) has not only made this scholarly work possible in a practical sense, it has pushed me to look beyond my comfort zone of discussing the Joycean hypertextual to think about how such theorizing can extend to similar works that link back to the node of Ulysses.

I’ve previously blogged about the overarching plans for my digital dissertation: about how I’ll be empirically user-testing both current and personal theories about textuality through code and design, and how I’m designing this building-as-scholarship towards helping everyone—textual scholars and the lay person—participate in our love for the nuances of a text’s materiality, history, and meaning. This post is about the first of my dissertation’s three coding projects: designing and coding an interface that allows a participatory, vibrant, contextualizing conversation around complex Modernist texts, with Ulysses being my main focus. Packed into one sentence, my research question for this first project is: What might we learn from crafting an interface to usefully curate quantity and quality of contextual annotation for complex Modernist digital editions (such as Ulysses), where the critical conversation is opened to the public? That’s a long sentence covering both more abstract and more concrete critical work, and I’ll be breaking it into manageable chunks with the rest of this post and those to follow.

“Infinite” annotations.

While there isn’t a complete scholarly digital edition of Ulysses yet published, that hasn’t kept Joycean scholars from anticipating issues that might arise with the eventual migration to digital space. Where the limitations of print space have in the past kept annotations of the text in check, what will happen when a digital platform allows the addition and navigation of infinite annotations? Can we migrate complex print hypertexts such as Ulysses to a digital space with socially multiplied annotations without, as Mark Marino wonders, “diminish[ing] the force of the book”:

Assuming it were possible, would the creation of a system that automatically makes available all the allusions, unravels all the riddles, and translates foreign languages normalize Joyce’s text? (Mark C. Marino, “Ulysses on Web 2.0: Towards a Hypermedia Parallax Engine”)

In Joyce Effects: On Language, Theory, and History, Derek Attridge similarly sees a risk in Ulysses‘ hypertextualization:

[Ulysses‘] cultural supremacy, and the scholarly efforts which reflect and promote that supremacy, have turned it into a text that confirms us in our satisfied certainties instead of one that startles and defies is and thus opens new avenues for thought and pleasure. It now reassures us of our place in what might otherwise seem a chaotic universe, or it provides a model of coherence to take a refuge in, a satisfying structure where the details all make sense… a spurious sense of rich complexity by reducing differences and distinctions (Derek Attridge, Joyce Effects: On Language, Theory, and History, 185)

Yet Attridge sees space for promise in the digital development of the text as well:

The very magnitude of the encyclopedic Joycean hypertext can itself be unsettling… and it may be possible to produce a hypermedia version of Ulysses that is anything but reassuring—one that revives, in new ways, the provocations and disturbances of the original publication… The best teachers (like the best critics) are those who find ways to sustain the disruptive force of Ulysses even while they do their necessary work of explaining and demystifying (Derek Attridge, Joyce Effects: On Language, Theory, and History, 186-188)

Despite there being no full digital edition of Ulysses against which to test these fears and assumptions, we already have some questions about what happens to a complex Modernist text when “everyone shows up”, and I’m hoping that by creating a site that experiments with allowing “infinite” contextual annotation of Ulysses (that’s where the “Infinite Ulysses” title of my project comes from), we can get a more realistic picture of what extreme annotation actually does to our experience of the text. When even someone as familiar with the text(s) as Ulysses editor Hans Walter Gabler can still learn new things about Ulysses (as he marveled during a class at the University of Victoria this summer), I’m confident that Ulysses will persist as always partially unfixed, always giving back more—and the Joycean digital theoretical work of Michael Groden and other digital humanists is ripe for carrying over to similarly complex Canadian texts.

Quantity and quality, signal and noise.

While the final effect of unlimited space to discuss and interpret the text remains to be seen, the “Infinite Ulysses” project will also tackle two more immediate problems: quality and quantity of annotation. If everyone is submitting annotations to a digital edition, how can we automate the massive task of curation and moderation of these annotations so that it occurs in a timely and unbiased manner? And once we’ve separated the wheat of critical yet diverse annotations from the chaff of repetitions, spam, and under-substantiated suggestions, how do we make the still-plentiful remaining material accessible to the users it would best serve? That is, how do we separate the signal from the noise when the “signal” of pertinent contextual annotations means different things for different reader needs?

So: what happens to a complex Modernist text when we allow “infinite” annotations on it, and how do we work with “infinite” annotations to filter, order, and display those annotations best suited to a given reader? In a future post on this blog, I will explain the specific features I’m coding into my digital edition interface to approach these questions.

To sign up for a notification when the “Infinite Ulysses” site is ready for beta-testing, please visit the form here.

Amanda Visconti is an EMiC Doctoral Fellow; Dr. Dean Irvine is her research supervisor and Dr. Matthew Kirschenbaum is her dissertation advisor. Amanda is a Literature Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland and also works as a graduate assistant at a digital humanities center, the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). She blogs regularly about the digital humanities, her non-traditional digital dissertation, and digital Joyce at LiteratureGeek.com, where parts of this post previously appeared.

August 21, 2011

Making meaning through digital design

I feel very fortunate in having been able to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria for a second time with EMiC colleagues, and in having had the opportunity to take part in the first iteration of Meagan Timney’s Digital Editions course as part of DEMiC. Other EMiC-ites have written eloquently about the various DHSI workshops and how awesome they are, so although I share their enthusiasm, I won’t recapitulate that subject here. Instead, I thought  it might be worth drawing attention to a recent article in Literary and Linguistic Computing which resonates with much of what we were talking about at DHSI: Alan Galey and Stan Ruecker’s “How a Prototype Argues”, LLC25.4 (Dec 2010): 405-424.

Galey & Ruecker’s basic proposition is that a digital object can be understood as a form of argument, and indeed that it is essential to start thinking of them in this way if they are to get the recognition they are entitled to as forms of scholarship. Interpreting scholarly digital objects – especially experimental prototypes – in terms of the arguments they are advancing can be the basis on which to peer review them, without the need to rely on articles that describe these prototypes (413). They set out a checklist of areas which could be used by peer reviewers, and also consider the conditions under which peer review can happen – that a prototype reifies an argument, for example, rather than simply acting as a production system.

What I found especially useful in Galey & Ruecker’s piece was the idea of understanding digital artefacts in terms of process. As they point out, this is a point of commonality for book historians and designers, as both are interested in “the intimate and profound connections between how things work and what they mean” (408). Book historians, for instance, situate authoring in the context of multiple meaning-making activities – designing, manufacturing, modifying, reading and so forth – so that it becomes only one process among a plethora of others which together act to shape the meanings that readers take away. Similarly, a range of processes shape the semiotic potential of digital objects. One thing the Digital Editions course did was to force us to think about these processes, and how our editions (and the online furniture surrounding them) would be traversed by different kinds of users. This involves asking yourself who those people will be: see Emily’s fabulous taxonomy of user personas.

However, the act of designing a digital edition is not just about the process of creating an artifact. It’s also a process of critical interpretation (though cf. Willard McCarty’s gloss on Lev Manovich’s aphorism that “a prototype is a theory”). For Galey & Ruecker, digital editions not only embody theories but make them contestable:

By recognizing that digital objects – such as interfaces, games, tools, electronic literature, and text visualizations – may contain arguments subjectable to peer review, digital humanities scholars are assuming a perspective similar to that of book historians, who study the sociology of texts. In this sense, the concept of design has developed beyond pure utilitarianism or creative expressiveness to take on a status equal to critical inquiry, albeit with a more complicated relation to materiality and authorship. (412)

Having spent the week at DHSI getting my head around the intersection of scholarly inquiry, design, and useability, and discovering how exhilarating it was to think about the texts and authors I work with using a completely different conceptual vocabulary, I couldn’t agree more with this: this is intellectual labour on a par with critical inquiry. Thinking about how a user will proceed through a digital edition is every bit as crucial as planning how to construct a conventional piece of scholarship such as a journal article: both involve understanding how to lead your reader through the argument you have built. It’s also daunting, of course, when you have no training in design (and run the risk of getting it spectacularly wrong, as in this salutary warning that Meg & Matt put up in the Digital Editions course). And where the time to learn and think about this fits onto already crowded professional plates I’m yet to figure out, though this is something of a perennial question for DH research. But, I’m also delighted that at this point in my career I have the opportunity to bring in a whole new realm – design – as part of the process of constructing an edition.

One of the reasons it’s important to pay attention to the design of an artifact, Galey & Ruecker assert, is that it has something to tell us about that artifact’s role in the world. While I have certainly thought about the audience for my own digital edition, and the uses to which users might put it, I had not really considered this in terms of my edition’s “role in the world”. The mere act of building a digital edition is an assertion that the material being presented is worth paying attention to, but beyond this there are three further aspects of a digital artifact that Galey & Ruecker suggest as criteria for peer review, which they take from Booth et al.’s (2008) three key components of a thesis topic: being contestable, defensible, and substantive. So, I also have to ask myself: What, exactly, is my edition of correspondence contesting? How am I defending the choices I have made about its content, its form and every other element? And how is it substantive? (These could be useful questions with which to structure the “rationale” part of a book or grant proposal.)

If it’s clear, then, that interfaces and visualization tools “contain arguments that advance knowledge about the world” (406), then the helpful leap that Galey & Ruecker make is to connect this observation to peer-reviewing practices, and to suggest that part of the peer review process should be to ask what argument a design, or a prototype is making. “How can design become a process of critical inquiry itself, not just the embodiment of the results?” (406), they ask, and this seems to me to be a question that goes to the heart not just of our various EMiC editions, print as well as digital, but also of the DEMiC Digital Editions course itself. A great deal of time and effort will go into our editions, and if print-centric scholarly appraisal frameworks aren’t necessarily adequate to all digital purposes then it’s important that we take the initiative in beginning the conversations which will determine the standards by which our digital projects will be reviewed, which is precisely what Galey & Ruecker are concerned to do. As they point out, digital objects challenge hermeneutic assumptions which are anchored in the print culture and bibliographic scholarship of the past century (411). One of the difficulties DH scholars face is when our work (and our worth) is assessed by scholars whose own experiences, training, practices and so forth are grounded in print culture, and who see these challenges not as challenges but as shortcomings, errors, and inadequacies when compared to conventional print formats. The onus, then, is on us to be clear about the arguments our digital objects are making.

I am left to wonder: What argument is my digital edition putting forward? What about those of other EMiC-ites: What arguments are your editions advancing? And how can we be more explicit about what these are, both in our own projects, and across the work of EMiC as a whole?

June 7, 2011

DHSI=>DEMiC=>Digital Editions

At our DEMiC 2011 orientation session, I had a chance to welcome 30 EMiC participants to the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria. Or, rather, 31 including myself. A long month of EMiCites. This is our largest contingent so far, and DHSI itself has grown to host over 200 participants attending 10 different courses. The EMiC community is represented at DEMiC by 13 partner institutions. EMiC has people enrolled in 7 of the 10 offered courses. But what really makes DEMiC 2011 different from previous years is that EMiC is offering its own DHSI course.

If you’re already dizzied by the acronyms, this is how I parse them: DHSI is the institute in its entirety, and DEMiC is our project’s digital training initiative that allows our participants to take any of the institute’s course offerings. With the introduction of EMiC’s own course, DEMiC has transformed itself. EMiC’s Digital Editions course draws upon the specializations of multiple DHSI course offerings, from Text Encoding Fundamentals to Issues in Large Project Management.

The course has been in the making for roughly six years, beginning with the pilot course in editing and publishing that Meagan and I first offered at Dalhousie in 2006-07. This course was not offered as part of my home department’s standard curriculum, which actually proved advantageous because it gave us the freedom to develop an experiential-learning class without harbouring anxieties about how to make the work of editing in print and digital media align with a traditional literary-studies environment. In other words, we started to develop a new kind of pedagogy for the university classroom in line with the kinds of training that takes place at digital-humanities workshops, seminars, and institutes. To put it even more plainly: we wanted to import pieces of DHSI to the Maritimes. That was pre-EMiC.

With EMiC’s start-up in 2008, we began flying out faculty, students, and postdocs to DHSI. After two years (2009, 2010) of taking various DH courses at introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels, we consulted with the EMiC participants to initiate the process of designing our own DHSI course. Meagan and I worked together on the curriculum, and Matt Huculak consulted with both of us as he surveyed the various options available to us to serve as an interface and repository for the production of EMiC digital editions at DHSI. After six months of trial and error, weekly skype meetings with about a dozen different collaborators, three different servers, and two virtual machines, we installed Islandora with its book ingest solution pack. That’s what we’re testing out in Digital Editions, keeping detailed logs of error messages and bugs.

I would like to thank the many people and institutional partners who have come together to make possible the first version of Digital Editions. This course is the product of an extensive collaborative network: Mark Leggott’s Islandora team at the University of Prince Edward Island (Alan Stanley, Alexander O’Neill, Kirsta Stapelfeldt, Joe Veladium, and Donald Moses), Susan Brown’s CWRCers at the University of Alberta (Peter Binkley, Mariana Paredes, and Jeff Antoniuk), Paul Hjartarson’s EMiC group at the UofA (Harvey Quamen and Matt Bouchard), EMiC postdoc Meagan Timney at UVic’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, Image Markup Tool developer Martin Holmes at UVic’s Humanities Computing and Media Centre, and EMiC postdoc Matt Huculak at Dalhousie.

As I write this at the back of a computer lab at UVic, fifteen EMiC participants enrolled in Digital Editions are listening to Meagan, Matt Bouchard, and Alan walk them through the Islandora workflow, filling out MODS forms, testing out the book ingest script with automated OCR, and editing transcriptions in the web-based TEI editor. Some people are waiting patiently for the server to process their ingested texts. We’re witnessing the first stages of EMiC digital editions of manifestos and magazines, poems and novels, letters and short stories. We ingested texts by Crawley, Livesay, Garner, Smart, Page, Scott, Sui Sin Far, Watson, and Wilkinson. And we’re working alongside an international community, too: our newly born repository is also populated with editions of D.G. Rossetti, Marianne Moore, Tato Riviera, Hope Mirrlees, Catherine Sedgwick, and James Joyce.

This afternoon the server at UPEI processed 20 different texts. Hello world. Welcome to Day 1 of the EMiC Commons.