For those of you interested in what exactly I’m doing, you’ve come to the right place. I am currently a PhD student in Digital Humanities at Maynooth University working under the supervision of Professor Susan Schreibman. While I have a vast range of interests within Digital Humanities, the primary focus of my PhD research is on the presentation of text in the Digital Scholarly Edition (DSE). I am examining alternatives to the use of the book metaphor with the aim of supporting alternative modalities of reading (outside of the traditional close reading model).
What’s a Digital Scholarly Edition”, you might ask? Well that’s an excellent question, and depending on who you ask, you’ll probably get different answers. I suppose one of the easiest answers is the one stated by Patrick Sahle on his website A Catalog of: Digital Scholarly Editions. He begins by defining the scholarly edition as: “A scholarly edition is the critical representation of historical documents” (Sahle, 2011). He then goes on to define the digital scholarly edition as more than just a digitised version of the scholarly edition but rather a digital implementation of a scholarly edition that, if printed, would result in a loss of information or interactivity necessary to the edition. There are hundreds of digital scholarly editions floating around the world wide web (after all, there have been DSE’s nearly as long as there have been websites). Some of them were created nearly 20 years ago, whereas some of them were created quite recently (I myself worked on a DSE that was launched in June of 2015. Check out The Woodman Diary). The interesting commonality that exists amongst many of these editions is the implementation of “the book metaphor”.
So what is the book metaphor? Well, for the sake of my research, I’m referring to all of those little UI elements we are so used to that attempt to mimic the physical book. Whether it be a table of contents, an index, footnotes and endnotes, moving pages, etc., I am interested in exploring ways to escape these metaphors. The book as it exists in print has many limitations, especially when it comes to the visualisation and extrapolation of data. For starters, it is bound by its physical representation on the page. It is forced into a static format and has thus adapted certain tools (such as the index or footnotes) in order to convey further information. And those tools work very well in the analogue. In the digital, however, they can be improved. And that is where I aim to take my research—finding new ways to present data in the digital scholarly edition that not only allows us to read the text in new ways but also allows us to interrogate differently (and hopefully, more efficiently).
Sahle, P. (2011). About. [online] a catalog of: Digital Scholarly Editions. Available at: http://www.digitale-edition.de/vlet-about.html [Accessed 23 Nov. 2015].