COMStTrainingSchool092012

From IntereditionWiki

Interedition was invited by COMSt (Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies, an ESF Research Networking Action) to give a training school at the September 2012 meeting. The idea was to show some of the tools on which Interedition has collaborated over the four years of its tenure as a COST action, in a hands-on tutorial environment.

Presenters were Joris van Zundert, Gregor Middell, Troy Griffitts, Tara Andrews, and Florian Willems. The training school was organised into three sessions over Thursday evening and Friday morning, and the presenters outlined an approach to the task of digital editing and displayed various tools and resources that are (or soon will be) available for the purpose.

Session 1: Transcription and collation

After a general introduction to Interedition and its goals by Joris van Zundert, the participants were treated to a discussion of the theory and methodology behind automated collation, given by Gregor Middell. They were introduced to the collation tools CollateX and Juxta, and the Juxta interface was demonstrated in some detail.

Troy Griffitts presented on the topic of setting up a workflow for manuscript collection, indexing, transcription, and collation, using the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room of the INTF as an example. A demonstration page targeted at several oriental languages was displayed, and participants were welcome to try out the tools for themselves.

Continuing specifically on the topic of tools available for transcription, Tara Andrews demonstrated two web-based tools currently available for scholars' use: T-PEN, developed at St. Louis University, and the eLaborate transcription and publication tool developed by the Huygens Institute.

Session 2: Analysis of textual data, large-scale workflows

After a "pep talk" on the advantages of digital methods for text edition by Florian Willems, the programme turned to a few examples of data analysis that can be useful for textual scholars—analysis that only becomes possible once texts are transcribed into digital form.

The first of these topics, stemmatology, was presented by Tara Andrews. Here we introduced the Stemmaweb (alternate site here, developed at KU Leuven as part of a CREA research project to study empirical data on text transission. The site hosts a collection of tools for creation and editing of stemma hypotheses, and visualization of changes within a text as compared to a given stemma; some of the tools are shared with other Interedition projects, most notably the New Testament VMR of INTF.

The second topic, stylistics, was presented by Joris van Zundert. He gave some examples of the research questions about texts that can be approached with statistical methods, and demonstrated the use of the Delta3D tool for pinpointing changes in style which could highlight, for example, changes in authorship.

Session 2 was rounded off by Florian Willems, who presented the work of DARE (the Digital Averroes Research Environment) in managing very large amounts of textual data where full transcriptions of all manuscripts are not yet feasible.

Session 3: Needs and desiderata for publication

One of the most glaring gaps in the landscape of digital tools for text edition is the lack of tools for online publication. In large part this is because there is as yet no consensus on what a digital publication should entail; in contrast to book publication there are very few 'house standards' for layout, selection of material, etc., and in addition to this the possibilities of the digital medium have not been fully explored. Instead of presenting tools in this session, therefore, we discussed the needs of scholars when it comes to digital publication and the obstacles they usually face. Tara Andrews displayed an example of a self-published digital critical edition in progress, as a base for further discussion.

Topics that came to be discussed were the specificity of form of digital editions, their purpose, and most prominently their sustainability. The discussion converged on the idea that digital editions are foremost research environments that help textual scholars to engage with their texts in a more exploratory fashion and that leave editions open to changes and updates. It was discussed whether this also meant that the digital edition should in principle be regarded rather as a work in progress (a text in flux). For actual publishing and reading purposes a physical or ePub (eBook) seems more preferable though. As for sustainability Van Zundert concluded… We're not in an era yet where this famous buzzed 'cloud' takes care of everything in a sustainable perpetual fashion, although we may get there. For now we indeed best regard the electronic edition rather as a working environment offering us exciting new possibilities and insights when preparing our editions. But as for posterity we should still foster the book.