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.

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