Thursday, 26 May 2011

Digital editing and digital editions

Yesterday I took part in a workshop organised by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) on 'Digital editing and digital editions'. In the first session, two Cambridge academics, Eleanor Robson and John Rink, talked respectively about the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus (ORACC) and the Online Chopin Variorum Edition (OCVE). The first of these is truly a labour of love, with those involved giving their time for free to provide a workspace and tools of which anyone in the field may take advantage. This is an approach which seems to have become embedded in digital editing before many other areas of the digital humanities - there are generic, and even interdisciplinary, elements of the editing process which may be very well served by a central resource of this kind. A cuneiform digital edition may look unfamiliar to a medieval or early modern historian, but the approach and many of the processes are very recognisable indeed.

The OCVE has been developed over several years with funding from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, and it is already transforming the way in which performers and scholars alike interact with the works of Chopin. In the variorum tradition, it brings together multiple first editions and revisions, allowing detailed comparison (at the level of the bar) and providing the opportunity to produce 'personalised' editions of a particular work. It's a fascinating project, which has taken a truly innovative approach to digital editing, and one from which many others could learn.

A closing roundtable discussion drew out some of the questions raised by the speakers, and again identified the degree of commonality that exists between disciplines. As is now customary at any digital event, there was considerable emphasis on sustainability and preservation, in technical, financial and academic terms. In this context, the principles of openness and of identifying and adopting common standards were emphasised. The logical extension of this, greater interoperability, was also much discussed.

All of this is enormously encouraging for a project like ReScript, which is being developed on precisely these principles.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Digital research and editing environments workshop

Digital research and editing environments offer humanities researchers the opportunity greatly to extend the range of methodologies open to them through the use of advanced online text analysis tools. However, their adoption remains highly localised and unevenly distributed because of, among other things, lack of awareness, the inappropriate configuration of editing tools, lack of institutional support, and the instability and unfamiliarity of interfaces.

This workshop will look at the current state of the field from three viewpoints:

• the researcher, open to learning new skills but wary of the transience, inflexibility and insecurity of some services;
• the editor, looking to broaden the reach of his or her published output, but requiring complex and sometimes bespoke workflows
• the technologist, eager to understand researchers’ needs but unsure how these will develop and change over time

For those attending the workshop, issues arising from the speakers’ presentations will be discussed in an ‘Ideas CafĂ©’, which will be followed by an open discussion session. While this workshop will be particularly useful for practitioners currently working on or with digital research and editing environments, the IHR actively invites contributions from researchers and scholars who may have further observations, experience of, or different insights into the adoption of these new tools and technologies. Parts of the workshop will be live streamed through the IHR's History SPOT service, with an option to contribute in real time, allowing interested parties who cannot attend to ask questions during the open discussion. A link to this video will be posted once it becomes available.

This workshop will be held on 7 July 2011 and run from 12.30 to 4.30pm.

For full details, including speaker biographies, please go to

Welcome to ReScript

Welcome to this new blog, which will be recording the progress of our JISC-funded project to enhance the usability/learnability of ReScript, our new online editing platform. You won't have seen ReScript yet as it's still in development, but the JISC funding will allow us to consult widely with researchers as we design the interface and, we hope, will result in a resource which is intuitive and fully meets historians' needs.

ReScript is being tested using three very different texts in order to ensure that it is sufficiently flexible to cope with the range of editorial activity undertaken by historians. Two of those identified (Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion and the St. Botolph Aldgate Parish Clerk’s Memorandum Books) already have editorial teams in place. The third, Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses, does not, but is an ideal candidate for a crowd-sourced edition, allowing a comparison between formal and informal editorial structures online.

We hope that you will not only follow our progress here, but also feed your opinions in to the project, whether by filling out an online survey or by taking part in a focus group. We'll post details of ways in which you can participate in the coming weeks. Watch this space!