Session idea: Small-Scale Digital Editions and Collections

I would be interested in discussing issues related to the creation, dissemination, preservation, and use of small-scale digital editions and collections. Last Spring, I attended ThatCamp South Jersey, which inspired me to begin creating a digital collection of Catharine Sedgwick’s previously uncollected tales and sketches, a project I developed further at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria, in June. I am still working on this project, and welcome the opportunity to discuss my progress, including the problems I’ve solved (a few) and the challenges I am currently facing (a lot), and to gain new ideas and insights from others who have worked on or are planning similar projects. I’d be glad to talk about both practical ideas and theoretical issues. I am both excited and intimidated by Peter Shillingsburg’s vision of the
“scholarly electronic edition of the future”:

— the one that will actually be used and therefore influence literary study and criticism — will be convenient: it will be as cheap as a paperback book, with a user-friendly interface (adaptable by the user to suit his or her condition, whether the user is a scholar, a student, or a tourist), and will be treated as the user’s own, with bookmarks, highlighting, space for marginal notes, and the ability to annotate or even change the materials that appear on the screen in what must truly feel like the user’s very own private copy. It will be convenient both for the editors that build them and the scholars who augment them. It will be maintainable, with component parts that are replaceable and amenable to being supplemented as new data and new uses for textual data develop. It will be convenient, moreover for technicians — both now and in the future — adhering to standards except where the standards impose intolerable limitations. (DHQ, Summer 2009, V3, N3 http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/3/3/000054/000054.html#N100D4)

This leads to some questions:

  • What is the best platform/environment (right now) for a small-scale project?
  • What kinds of collaborations would enhance the project in terms of production, publication, dissemination, access?
  • How do we plan for the preservation of a small-scale project?
  • How do we plan for a user experience that is substantive and meaningful?

The dialog between research and digital project structure

As I begin thinking about my “animals in city life” project, I’ve been pondering some of my needs other than the strictly technical ones. One of the subjects that I would really like to talk about is the impact of digital history on the research process for projects. I know how to plan for an article or book — it is always a dialogic process where the research process changes the topic as I go along. Also, often I do not know exactly what I think about something until I am engaged in the process of writing.

How do we develop the order and structure for interpretive digital history projects? Is writing still the intermediary step, or is another visualizing process in play?

Session Idea: Best practices for multi-dimensional annotation

Recently, I’ve been thinking about expanding a digital project I’m working on (a syntactically annotated corpus of Ancient Greek texts) to include other dimensions of information (in this case, I want to add semantic information). I’m not sure what the best way is to go about adding another layer of information that may conflict with the current hierarchical organization of the text (resulting in overlapping and thus illicit XML tags).

This session could be a help-a-thon if others have experiences to share from working on projects with similar challenges, or it could be more of an abstract discussion of information organization and design.