18thConnect Update

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18thConnect’s new web site is up and running and should generate interesting discussion.  To view it, click here or go to http://www.18thconnect.org/.

The site contains an introductory six-minute video by Laura Mandell that briefly maps out plans to offer peer review of digital scholarship and provide the equivalent of a “table of contents” to the best electronic resources in the field.  According to Laura, the human record needs to be machine readable in order to be preserved.  The video also  demonstrates how the platform works and what will and will not be accessible.   Readers whose libraries subscribe to ECCO, will be able to access ECCO through 18thConnect.  Readers whose libraries do not subscribe to ECCO will be directed to a given text’s record within ESTC so that they can identify the location of a text.

According to its own self-description, 18thConnect hopes to “gather together a community of scholars that shapes the world of digital resources,” adding that its main concerns include

  • Access via plain-text searching for all scholars to open access and proprietary and digital archives including EEBO and ECCO even if their institutions are unable to afford those resources;
  • Peer-review of the growing number of digital resources and archives for which 18thConnect offers an online finding aid;
  • Reflection on Best Practices with scholars who are negotiating new modes of publication and scholarly production.

It is great that we finally have an eighteenth-century counterpart to NINES, which nineteenth-century scholars seem to be using productively.  I am curious, however, about how a platform like 18thConnect will be used, either in scholarship or in teaching.  When I hear Laura talk about “crowd-sourced data correction” or data-mining projects, I want to hear more about how such tasks will function and in what cases they will be used.  And how will accuracy be guarded?  I also wonder whether there are plans to include EEBO–so that 18thConnect can provide resources for the entirety of the long eighteenth century.  But for now I would be very interested in hearing how scholars plan on using this promising new platform.

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5 Responses to “18thConnect Update”

  1. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    The launch of this site has been much anticipated, and it is clear that this site will provide a much needed service to scholars working in the 18th century and its peripheries.

    The site received some discussion at the Material Cultures 2010 conference that just ended this past Sunday. While the conference’s theme was “‘Technology, Textuality, and Transmission,” it also included many papers related to “all aspects of Bibliography and History of the Book.” (Here’s a link to the program.) What struck me at the conference, though, was the need to communicate far better the tools available to scholars. Many of the 18th-century and 19th-century scholars who attended the “Going Digital” panel on which I appeared seemed unfamiliar with existing resources and ones under development. This unfamiliarity underscored that key challenges facing us are spreading the word better about these resources and encouraging those who have not participated in the digital world much beyond email and the like to become involved. Expanding the knowledge of these resources seems crucial to answering Anna’s questions about crowd-sourced data correction as well as how sites such as 18thConnect will be used.

    Much of my conference talk was devoted to demonstrating search strategies when using digital resources and the way these tools are altering our conceptions of searches. I had been worried that my remarks would seem “old hat” given the conference’s theme and the participants it such a theme attracted. Yet, while I spoke a bit about the tricks of using existing databases such as Burney and others, I could have said much more if I had had more time. My more meta-remarks about searches (that is, ones related to devising different types of search terms and to recognizing how the instantaneous capacity of these tools combine with the unprecedented access and speed of returns afforded by these tools to affect search processes) seemed equally to be news. At the same time, my fellow presenter David Buchanan’s talk on Popular Romanticism, a resource that describes “popular print artifacts of the Romantic period in Britain c. 1780-1830″ made me aware not only of this site but also of the tool Streetprint that was used to create this site. In short, we have so many potentially useful digital resources and tools available, but there does not seem to be a main site that helps distribute news and evaluations about them. Nor do we seem to have had enough discussion about how to use these resources effectively. 18thConnect holds the promise of fulfilling such needs.

    In addition to much needed plain-text access that 18thConnect will provide, I also see its Peer-Review and Best Practices sections offering a crucial clearinghouse and publicity organ for information about what digital resources exist for the long eighteenth-century and how to use them most effectively and advantageously.

  2. Anna Battigelli Says:

    It would seem natural to add Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker as a resource on 18thConnect. Also, if I understand 18thConnect properly, it would be a perfect forum for a version of the paper Eleanor presented at the Material Cultures conference. Such a paper delineating search strategies provides exactly the kind of practical advice for scholars steeped in traditional archives but new and perhaps unsure of how best to approach internet resources. Both Eleanor’s paper and Ben’s Book Tracker are timely and valuable resources.

    It would be great to hear from Laura Mandell about how 18thConnect will proceed in determining what to place on its platform.

  3. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks, Anna. I suspect that Ben’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker will indeed be a resource. I believe it was through Laura Mandell that I first learned about his project.

    Jerry McGann chaired the session on which I presented, and he suggested that I be in touch with Laura about a contribution to 18thConnect based on my remarks.

    Under the Publications section on 18thConnect, there is information about suggesting work: “If you would like to recommend the addition of another publication to this list, please contact the Project Manager. “

  4. Laura Mandell Says:

    Eleanor and Anna:

    Thanks for this excellent summary. I wanted to offer a direct link to the forum where people can leave ideas about how 18thConnect should work: http://www.18thconnect.org/forum/view_thread?thread=1

  5. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks for this direct link, Laura. The site is handsomely designed, and as more and more learn of this new clearinghouse/hub for eighteenth-century scholarship, I am sure ideas will start to flow.

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