KONDE - Kompetenznetzwerk Digitale Edition


What are we waiting for? State of the art in digital editing. Part 1

Georg Vogeler

My paper at the conference “Textgenese in der digitalen Edition” is a summary on where the digital editing stands – as I far as I’m concerned. I’ve discussed the subject with my colleagues from the Graz DH-Centre for Informationmodelling (“ZIM”) intensively in the last couple of weeks: two of them are finishing their Marie-Curie-Slodkowska-ITN fellowship in the DiXiT-program these days (Frederike Neuber [Graz site] working on a typography aware digital edition of Stefan George’s lyrics) and Roman Bleier [Graz site], working on an enhanced digital edition of St. Patricks confessio), Martina Scholger is working on a digital edition of the notebooks of the Styrian artist Hartmut Skerbisch for her PhD, Hans Clausen has added fancy analytic possibilities to the Ödön-von-Horváth edition and prepares a digital edition of the war diary of Otto Dix, together with Christian Steiner and Christopher Pollin I realised two digital editions of archival material from Basel (annual accounts 1535-1610 and ‘Urfehdebücher’ 1563-1569), Christian is working together with Robert Klugseder from the Austrian Acedmy of Sciences on a digital edition of libri ordinarii from the Salzburg province, Helmut Klug is involved in the edition of medieval culinaric texts, Carina Koch will realize together with me a digital edition of diplomatic correspondence from the Ottoman Empire under the lead of Arno Strohmeyer from Salzburg University, etc. etc. Recently we won a grant to build up a national network on digital scholarly editing, a collaboration which will take up its work in the next weeks. Shouldn’t be too complicated then to give this summary. At the Institut für Dokumentologie und Editorik (IDE) we are discussing the subject since 2006 – and Patrick, Franz, Torsten, Alex, Philipp, Ulrike, Malte, Markus, Martina, Frederike, Roman, Bernhard have all be part of projects realising digital scholarly editions. But – wait: everybody, every project has different aims, methods and interests, as usual in DH. What will be the conclusion from this?

Part 2

Cliffhanger resolving! What am I trying to say in the talk today:

First thing: Digital Scholarly Editing as an established thing – and I say deliberately “thing” as it points to one of the critical points: it is established as a research field and as a research practice. Continuous conferences (yes, I’m talking today at one of several recent ones), contributions to the DH conferences (Scott Weingarts statistics seem to show a decline in interest, maybe three years are not enough data for a trend?), lots of publications – and even monographs (Sahle 2013, Pierazzo 2015) have created a vast set of knowledge, rich enough to make the bold proposal to say: a theory of digital scholarly edition exists.

Yes, it certainly can be refinded, advanced, and probably be shaken in its grounds by young scholars with fresh ideas or findings in other fields of research. That is the case in DH as it is in other scholarly fields of research. But in particular what Patrick has developed gives me the feeling of knowing where I am when I’m conceptualising new scholarly editions, consulting colleagues in their projects, or evaluating existing work. He takes up the line of media history and uses the term “transmedialisation” to help me (well not only me) to talk about the “separation of form and content”, the abstraction inherent to data modelling and system analysis, the virtualisation of information, or whatever your prefered perspective on the problem is. What we are doing when we use digital methods in digital scholarly editing is trying to organise our ideas about what a scholarly edition is in data structures and algorithms instead of making decisions on how we can put it on a paper page bound into a codex. So if anybody comes and uses brain waves to communicate between the machine and the human (yeah, not the thing everybody will be fond of), they should be able to ‘materialize’ the same data and logics through a different medium.

But that is only a part of the story. Elena in her book is refering us to the considerations of Willard McCarty on the role of modelling in DH. The activity of transmedialisation shapes our ideas about scholarly editing. So the transmedialisation is only telling us to be serious when we are creating a digital resource pretending to be a scholarly edition. That’s one of the reasons why the IDE has set up a review journal on digital scholary editions (RIDE) which is trying to be more than just a description of published scholarly editions and an evaluation of the scholarly success. In the checklist we hand to the authors (a multilingual resource!) we ask explicitely for a reflexion on the terminology: Would you call it a digital scholarly edition? Or prefer terms like “digital library”, “digital corpus”, “digital archive”, “information resource”, “database” etc.? Other points in the evaluation criteria reflect this concern as well: Think about the model of the text you are building in your scholarly edition!

In his 2013 book Patrick has suggested a model which seems to cover a great part of scholarly editing – and I will try to keep this as a fundament for the more practical models to show in the talk today. It is his “Wheel of Text”, a graphical representation of a pluralistic concept of the text to be edited. Depending on your research interests and the specific textual situation a text can be considered more from the side of transporting informtion (text as content), or as linguistic set (of words, chararters, senctences). The materialisation of the text can be more important (text as document) than its intellectural structure (text as work), texts can even be read as “symbols” in itself (text as visual sign), or you can consider the text as group of variant readings made in the history of the text. These perspectives on the object to be edited can be close by, so the image of a wheel fits well, I think. (there is currently no English publication on the subject, but word is spreading: e.g. [1] [2] [3])

Adding to this a definition of what a scholarly edition is (A scholarly edition is an information resource which offers a critical representation of documents or texts which need explanation to current readers (usually by their historical distance. = my modification of the definition from the English version of the evaluation criteria), we are at enough basic for a theory of digital scholarly editions – and I hope the audience will follow me in this idea.

Part 3

I promised to talk about practice as well today. And that is again a good part DH: thinking about something you are doing with the compter – and doing it. The practice of digital scholarly editing is advanced as well – of course. Patrick’s catalogue of digital scholarly editions registers more than 412 entries representing research results since 1995. Greta Franzini has collected a set of more than 232 digital scholarly editions (and I didn’t find clear information on the date when they were created). But be cautious: The 8 volumes with reviews of printed scholarly editions published in the series “Berliner Beiträge zur Editionswissenschaft” lists 455 scholarly editions since 2004. So don’t be tempted to think that digital methods are the only methods to create scholarly editions!

I think the major reasons why digital methods are choosen for scholarly editions are the following:

  • better availability
  • complex textual tradition
  • amount of information (e.g. feeling the need to publish images of the documents together with transcriptions, or feeling the need to publish intermediate state of work in large scale edition projects)
  • application of computational methods (e.g. automatic stemmatology, named entity recognition, etc.)
  • curiousity on new methods

If none of the reasons apply scholars are conservative and keep the established print methods. That is not satisfying beligerent DH, but its reasonable. But there is at least one movement which accepts a basic truth: every scholarly work in our current working environments is digital (please show me the people working handing in manuscripts written with pencil or typewriter. They are important sources for skills threatened to get lost!) – so what we are in fact doing, when we publish a printed scholarly edition, is deleting the digital part of a hybrid media usage. The people thinking about “hybrid” publication ways have understood this.

Thus the question moves of “For what we are waiting?” moves away from: Are we waiting for text and scholars fullfilling the list of reasons above? towards: Is digital scholarly editing practice already adapt to produce every kind of scholarly edition?

tbc …

Part 4

So, is digital scholarly editing a well established method to be used in everyday editorial practice? Well ….

Many DH centres are re-using software solutions to support digital scholarly editing: an internal brainstorming of the IDE came to the following list: kiln (London, Köln), eXist (Köln), XTF (Paris), Philologic (Paris), Collex (Charlottesville), eLaborate (Amsterdam), Salsah (Basel), eXist (Wien), FUD (Trier), EVT (Pisa), GAMS (Graz), WordPress (Köln), AustESE (Brisbane), eXist / RDF (Baltimore), EVI (Madrid). This is neither exhaustive nor reliable, so don’t expect me to give you all the links.

They are realising a set of tools answering the need of the scholarly editing workflow. To clear my mind I drew a graphic representing the parts of the workflow and showed it to my colleagues. As it comes, my mind was clear (blank?) but the graphic gained lots of complexity. So read the following from to top to bottom and in case of parallel stuff from left to right, and consider transparent frames as a something encompassing parts of the underlying stuff. Yellow is the physical world outside of the digital scholarly edition, blue is basic software components, reddish/orange is activities and green is data.

A model of practice in digital scholarly editing

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Dieser Artikel, die schriftliche Fassung eines Vortrags auf dem Day of DH 2017 in Wien, erschien zum ersten Mal am 20. April 2017 in einem Blog, der diese Veranstaltung begleitete: Web Archive.

Zitierempfehlung: Vogeler, Georg. 2021. What are we waiting for? State of the art in digital editing. Vortrag am Day of DH 2017 in Wien. Hrsg. v. Helmut W. Klug unter Mitarbeit von Selina Galka und Elisabeth Steiner im HRSM Projekt "Kompetenznetzwerk Digitale Edition". Handle: hdl.handle.net/11471/562.50.230. PID: o:konde.blog.