Posts Tagged ‘ASECS’

CFP: EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History

August 26, 2012

American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) 2013 conference, Cleveland, Ohio, April 4 -7.

EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History (Roundtable)
(Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and the Bibliography Society of America (BSA) Organizers: Eleanor F. Shevlin and Anna Battigelli

ProQuest‘s Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Gale‘s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) and its Burney 17th- and 18th-Century Newspaper Collection are transforming the landscape of eighteenth-century scholarship and teaching. While these commercial databases are well known for affording unprecedented access to early modern works, their full potential has yet to be realized. Aimed at advancing these tools’ usefulness, this roundtable seeks four to five ten-minute presentations that demonstrate ways in which these textabases can further work in book history and bibliography. Possible topics include using EEBO, ECCO, and/or Burney textbases to uncover, amend, or enhance information about the creation, production, circulation, or consumption of texts in the long eighteenth century; employing these tools to illustrate the importance of bibliographical knowledge and practices; applying their search capabilities to trace details about authors, printers, booksellers, paratextual elements, distribution networks, illustrations, translators (and translations), readers, pricing, and more; exploring the ways these digital tools are affecting or even reconfiguring the methodologies and research practices of book historians and bibliographers. Presentations that focus on EEBO Interactions (EI), a scholarly networking forum available to both EEBO subscribers and nonsubscribers, are especially welcomed. So too are examples of classroom exercises, course assignments, or advanced undergraduate or graduate seminars designed around one or more of these databases.

Abstracts of 250-words should be emailed to Eleanor Shevlin (eshevlin “AT” wcupa.edu) and Anna Battigelli (a.battigelli “AT” att.net). Proposers need not be members of SHARP or BSA to submit, but panelists must be members of both ASECS and either BSA or SHARP in order to present. For questions about SHARP membership, please direct inquiries to Eleanor Shevlin at eshevlin “AT” wcupa.edu. For questions about BSA membership,please direct inquiries to Catherine Parisian at catherine.parisian “AT” uncp.edu.

Digital Humanities and Archives II: ‘Archival Effects’ of Digitization

April 29, 2012

In an earlier EMOB post, “Digital Humanities and the Archives I: Economics and Sustainability”, we discussed the varied connotations that the term “sustainability” evokes. Yet the concept of “archives” also engenders a multiplicity of meanings as does the word “database.” In some circles “archive” and “database” are used interchangeably, while for others the terms signal distinctions between the past and the present. As Marlene Manoff has observed,

When scholars outside library and archival science use the word “archive” or when those outside information technology fields use the word “database,” they almost always mean something broader and more ambiguous than experts in these fields using those same words. The disciplinary boundaries within which these terms have been contained are eroding. Scholars use the terms metaphorically, appropriating them from the professional experts. (Manoff, “Archive and Database as Metaphor: Theorizing the Historical Record.” portal: Libraries and the Academy, 10.4 [2010], 385)

The submissions for the “Digital Humanities and the Archives” roundtable at ASECS 2012 attest to the varied meanings scholars ascribe to “archive” as a digital entity. While some proposals viewed commercial textbases such as ECCO or EEBO as archives, others considered non-commercial digital projects (some of which were designed to perform additional roles beyond being a repository), as falling under the “archival” designation. Still others proposed topics that were not tied to specific digital collections or projects. Reflecting this diversity, the selected presentations featured two papers on the nature of searching within digital environments (Randall Cream, West Chester Univ., and Bill Blake, New York Univ.), another on the coding issues encountered in building a performance history database (Mike Gavin, Rice University; University of South Carolina, Fall 2012), a fourth on the potential evidence that can be derived from negative results (Sayre Greenfield, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Greensburg), and the last on a digital archive aimed at facilitating exchange between scholars facilitating exchange between scholars and those outside the academy (Jessica Richard, Wake Forest Univ.). In his post on the many Digital Humanities sessions at ASECS, Stephen Gregg offers a fine overview of this roundtable, so the following comments supplement his summary. In addition, they serve as a springboard for discussing digitization’s broader “archival effects,” a term coined by Marlene Manoff to “suggest the ways in which digital media bring the past into the present” (386).

Contrasting the old and the new, Randall Cream noted that unlike traditional archives whose contents are not always fully known, digital archives and databases afford more certainty because their creation involves detailed and defining–an encyclopedic naming of their various parts. For Cream, this difference has also meant that searching the digital archives lacks the serendipitous discovery that scholars often experience when working in brick-and-mortar archives. He suggested concept-linked searching as a possible means of fostering chance discoveries within digital environments, a suggestion that provided a fitting segue to Bill Blake’s talk on crafting more effective digital searches. Blake argued for thinking beyond topical keyword searches aimed solely at retrieval. Instead, he called for adopting more quality, conceptually-based searches that will yield better results; such searches will counter the drift and spread that occur when the aim of retrieval replaces the goal of discovery. (Given earlier EMOB discussions of semantic- or meaning-based searches, it should be noted that Blake was referring to the ways users select and fashion search terms and not to the new search platforms that enable semantic or meaning-based searching such as Mimas used in JISC’s Historic Books collection.)

Cream’s and Blake’s remarks point to what could be termed a remediation of research practices as print and digital interact, and both their talks highlighted searching as perhaps one of the most significant reconfigured practices. And indeed the concept of searching has undergone major reformulations in the digital environment. While accessibility and quickness of obtaining results are often seen as digital archives’ main advantage over print, a key benefit of digital collections resides in their enabling users to traverse immense areas of texts multi-directionally. Put another way, what seems radically different about searching in the digital world is not merely unprecedented access and speed, but rather the ways one can alter search strategies instantaneously, shifting not only the search terms employed at a moment’s notice but also the temporal and spatial coordinates in which those terms are placed. This capability expands the ways we are approaching the search as a strategy, opening up new conceptualizations even as we retain the habits and training we acquired working with print. As Wired magazine’s Kevin Kelly has observed: “What search uncovers is not just keywords but also the inherent value of connection…Search opens up creations. …As a song, movie, novel or poem is searched, the potential connections it radiates seep into society in a much deeper way than the simple publication of a duplicated copy ever could” (Kevin Kelly, “Scan this Book!” New York Times, 14 May 2006).

The searching enabled within digital archives reorients our thinking about what constitutes relevant information and exposes the kinds of connectivity that we would likely miss or overlook working with print and manuscript in traditional environments. This reorientation, moreover, possesses its own opportunities for serendipity. While serendipitous discoveries made when working in a traditional archive or even browsing in the stacks typically occur within a bounded space and a pre-selected range of call numbers, digital archives and databases enable virtual movement throughout their holdings to uncover relevant but unforeseen connections not bounded by categories of expectations. In short, capable of serving as far more than text delivery systems and repositories, these digital archives and databases function as “discovery aids.” Fostering a culture of connectivity, these intellectual laboratories of sorts can provide access not only to individual titles but also to a larger, dynamic field of textual and sociocultural activity.

Sayre Greenfield’s paper demonstrated the kind of discoveries that this rethinking of relevant information can yield. Noting that assessing negative findings requires caution, Greenfield explored the ways in which a lack of search results—negative evidence—can translate into meaningful information and concluded that “absences are most useful when measured against positive results found elsewhere, in different genres or different periods.” In offering examples of the different hits obtained from performing the same search in ECCO and Burney, he drew attention to the importance of knowing the scope of a given database and the value of working across databases.

Mike Gavin’s paper also underscored the importance of understanding the operation of digital archives and the rethinking that such understanding can prompt. As Gavin recounted, creating a digital archive of dramatic works that incorporates their performance history has necessitated adapting TEI coding to facilitate searching. While his comments reflect the perspective of those constructing the archive, they also hold significance for users of digital archives. The tagging examples he provided illustrate the significant intellectual labor that goes into the creation of digital databases and archives; encoding a document, after all, is an interpretive practice requiring careful thought and subject expertise. His illustrations are a cogent reminder that the archives–whether traditional or digital–are never neutral but always are rooted in the views and principles of their creators. In the case of digital archives or databases, users benefit from being cognizant of their “constructedness.” Having an awareness of a digital archive’s creators, the circumstances surrounding its creation, the quality of its metadata, and the idiosyncrasies of its search engine will almost certainly enhance a user’s search process and, in some cases, even his or her analysis of results. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to uncover such details about digital archives and databases. Plus, even when there is transparency and one can familiarize oneself with a digital archive’s encoding principles and information architecture, the tagging can still limit the what results searches return. On a different note, it seems worth mentioning that the tasks of coding and organizing the contents of a traditional archive will, in turn, often enrich knowledge of its physical material. And this physical material remains important, for the digital and the material are not one and the same.

Unlike the first four papers that focused on either existing archives or ones nearing completion, Jessica Richard’s paper dealt with the early planning stages of a digital project. The incarnation for the project was a desire to foster exchange between eighteenth-century science studies scholars and a non-academic readership; creating a web-based site seems an ideal medium for the public-humanities thrust of this project. Notwithstanding its differences from the other talks, Richard’s topic very much reflects how the digital is transforming our traditional conceptions of archives. The project’s rethinking of audience, attention to wide access, and desire to translate scholarship for an interested general public all exemplify aspects of this transformation.

As these five talks illustrated, digital media are transforming our theoretical conceptions of “archives”; creating new paradigms and inspiring shifts in existing models as the digital and traditional archival cultures interact; and shaping the kinds of archival projects being undertaken, the methodologies used, and the types of research questions posed. Early in her essay Manoff suggests that “our current moment reflects the convergence of two phenomena–new technical capacities and an age-old impulse to gather and preserve. The ease of capturing digital data is an incitement to archive” (386). In light of the linguistic history of “archive,” connections between new technical capacities and the desire to collect and preserve have perhaps an even longer history. The word “archive” does not appear until after the invention of hand-press printing. While its use as a noun to denote either a historical document that is preserved or the place in which such documents are kept dates from the late 1630s/early 1640s, its verbal form–to archive–does not enter the lexicon until the twentieth century. Whether coincidence or not, this verb does not gain wide currency until the 1980s, a timing that corresponds with the growth in the use of computers and related technologies. In the past two decades the extensive adoption of digital technologies has dramatically spurred efforts to assemble large-scale collections of visual, verbal, and even oral materials and make them virtually available, either freely or commercially.

For Manoff, metaphorical appropriations of “archive” are not only useful for theorizing the ever-increasing growth of these collections but also for theorizing the digital in terms of its archival effects on our conceptions of history and the cultural record (385-6). As Manoff observes at the close of her essay, “archive” especially lends itself to such theorizing because the concept “carries within it both the ideal of preserving collective memory and the reality of its impossibility” (396). The musings about traditional and digital archives presented here touch upon only a few of the archival effects that digital transformations are exercising on our research practices and broader relationships with the history and knowledge. I hope others will add their thoughts about these changes and the explanatory power of “archive” to address our cultural moment.

ASECS 2012 Panels on Digital Humanities and Book History/Print Culture Topics

March 16, 2012

The following ASECS 2012 panels deal with relevant EMOB topics such as digital humanities, print culture, bibliography, reading, libraries, and more. The selection process entailed reviewing panel titles devoted to one of these topics, so some individual papers on other panels may well deserve a place on this roster. Please feel free to add to our list! In addition, we should stress that there are many other excellent sessions and papers that do not fall under these general headings; the entire program promises a very rich, rewarding conference. See the program for full details.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
THATCamp: “Research, Editing, and Publishing via 18thConnect.org” Pecan (all day workshop); to register, click here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

1. “Eighteenth-Century Poetry and Print/Visual/Material Culture” – I Llano

17. “Eighteenth-Century Poetry and Print/Visual/Material Culture” – II Llano

20. “Best Practices in Digital Pedagogy” Regency East

30. “Slavery, the Book, and Enlightenment Rights Theory” Bowie A

41. “Why We Argue about the Way We Read” (Roundtable) Bowie C

52. “Materializing Verse” – I Live Oak

54. “Funding, Grants, Hiring, Programs: Sharing Advice on How to Get Things Done in Hard Times” (Roundtable) Pecan

67. “Materializing Verse” – II Frio

69. “Digital Approaches to Library History” Regency East (The Bibliographical Society of America)

70. “Reading Texts and Contexts in the Eighteenth Century” (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing —SHARP) Guadalupe

Friday, March 23, 2012

84. “Visualization and Eighteenth-Century Print Culture” Frio

85. “Women’s History of Achievement: What’s in the Archive?” Nueces

104. “Diggable Data, Scalable Reading and New Humanities Scholarship” (Digital Humanities Caucus) Regency East

108. “Authors and Readers in the Eighteenth Century” – I (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing—SHARP) Pecos

112. “Teaching the Eighteenth-Century: A Poster Session” – II Regency Ballroom Foyer (several posters feature digital approaches/tools)

121. “Digital Humanities and the Archives” (Roundtable) (Digital Humanities Caucus) Regency East

133. “Authors and Readers in the Eighteenth Century” – II (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing —SHARP) Pecos

135. “Poetry and the Archive” (Roundtable) Blanco

139. “A Digital Humanities Experiment, Year One: Aphra Behn Online” (Roundtable) Regency East

144. “Copyright: Contexts and Contests” (The Bibliographical Society of America) Frios

Saturday, March 24, 2012

145. “Allan Ramsay: Poet, Printer, Editor, Song Collector, Scots Revivalist” Guadalupe

149. “Publishing the Past: History and Eighteenth-Century Print Culture” – I Frio

170. Publishing the Past: History and Eighteenth-Century Print Culture” – II Frio

207. “The Scottish Invention of English Copyright” Pecan

Digital Humanities and the Archives I: Economics and Sustainability

February 22, 2012

Those directly involved with digital archives contend with numerous issues that the general academic community often fails to understand or address, even though they bear significant implications for the future of scholarship.

–Sheila Cavanagh, “How Does Your Archive Grow: Academic Politics & Economics in the Digital Age”

While the spread of print prompted the coining of new words such as “manuscript” and “handwriting” to describe the older technology of writing, the pervasiveness of new media today has yielded no newly invented vocabulary to identify print. Instead, the world of new media has created its own lexicon consisting of either newly devised words–website, blog, crowdsourcing, or texting, to name a few–or terms forged by combining adjectives such a “digital” or “electronic” with existing nouns to distinguish the new from the old. Despite these different etymological trajectories, the relationship between the digital and print, much like the interactions between print and manuscript, is often a symbiotic one and one that almost always transforms our understanding of the older media.

Digital tools, for example, are transforming our conceptions of and theorizing about “archives” as well as our actual use of these repositories, be they material or virtual entities. Similarly, digital facsimiles are exercising various effects on our understanding of original documents. Our digital environment is shaping the kinds of archival projects being undertaken, the methodologies used, and/or the types of research questions posed. Interactions between the digital and the archival are creating new paradigms or inspiring shifts in existing models of document preservation, audiences, access, and more. The advent of the digital archive, for instance, has afforded a ready means for humanities scholars to engage the public in their scholarship. Finally, digital tools and platforms are addressing and reconfiguring questions concerning the economics, equity, and accessibility of archival materials.

The archive in the digital age is a complex topic approachable from multiple angles and involving “numerous issues that the general academic community often fails to understand or address, even though they bear significant implications for the future of scholarship” (Cavanagh). Focusing on economics and sustainability, this post is the first of several entries devoted to issues surrounding archival transformations in the digital era. The discussions arising from these posts also serve as preparation for the “Digital Humanities and the Archives” roundtable that will take place on Friday, March 22nd, at the upcoming ASECS 2012 conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Just as the term “digital humanities” gives rise to numerous definitions, the word “sustainability” in the digital environment also carries multiple meanings. As a June 2011 JISC publication, “Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources” reports, the word has been used to denote “a wide range of practices of varying rigor” from long-term access to preservation measures and securing audiences and users. No matter how one defines “sustainability,” however, economic factors are tightly intertwined with the creation, maintenance, and sustaining of digital work. Other forms of support (often entailing economic consequences) also play a significant role “as projects must justify their value not just to their funder, but to their host institution, to their users and to others whose support they require” (“Funding for Sustainability” 4).

As a primer to these issues, Daniel Pitti’s “Designing Sustainable Projects and Publications” offers a highly serviceable introduction to creating digital projects that will endure. While his article focuses on technical and logistical issues, ranging from mark-up technologies to selecting the suitable kind of databases, identifying the needs of users and uses, addressing intellectual property concerns, and adhering to industry standards, and more, collaboration at all stages emerges as a key tenet for ensuring the longevity and utility of the digital archive and other forms of digital projects.

In “How Does Your Archive Grow: Academic Politics & Economics in the Digital Age” ( Appositions May 2011) Sheila Cavanagh draws from her own experiences as Director of the Emory Women Writers Resource Project (EWWRP), a database featuring “female-authored and female-centered texts. . .from the 16th to the early 20th centuries,” to detail broader economic and collaborative issues affecting the sustainability of digital archives. That she began this archive as a solo project in 1995 affords a useful historical perspective to her remarks. Not surprisingly, a need for more funding and technical expertise resulted in EWWRP quickly becoming a collaborative project. While the academy has been slow to accept collaboration in the humanities and to devise protocols for evaluating digital scholarship and rewarding its practitioners, Cavanagh rightly notes that funding circumstances in contrast have changed in the intervening years. The ease with which she received institutional support for grant applications in the mid-1990s has now been replaced with a multi-level vetting process to assess how the “project and its needs rank with sufficient prominence on various institutional priority lists.” The end result? “In any given year, it is by no means guaranteed that innovations we envision for our database of early women writers will coincide with institutional desires.”

Moreover, as Cavanagh and others have also observed, not only have funding bodies become less enamored with projects that solely digitize documents in favor of those that offer more cutting-edge technology, but grant bestowers have also favored the funding of start-up projects as opposed to supporting the further development and maintenance of these projects. To be fair, the latter tendency is showing some signs of change as evidenced by grants such as the NEH Digital Implementation Grant “that seeks to identify projects that have successfully completed their start-up phase.”

The kinds of economic and sustainability issues surrounding today’s virtual archives are not the ones that concerned scholars working in the pre-digital age. Instead, for those professors and graduate students, the main economic issues consisted of having the funds and time needed to travel to the archives. While travel expenses remain legitimate needs today, access to commercial subscription databases, funds to support one’s own digital projects, and the feasibility of embarking on such a project for pre-tenured scholars have emerged as pressing economic concerns. Similarly, in the past, academic libraries created and maintained archives for users (admittedly often with some faculty consultation and collaboration). Yet today more and more professors, graduate students, and even some advanced undergraduates not only use archives, but they also build them and must plan for their management, growth, and sustainability as well. In doing so many enter into collaborative partnerships with libraries, while others form part of an academic center devoted to digital work. Some digital archives aim to reach more than an academic audience and instead afford a space for public humanities. And in almost all cases our experiences working with searchable, sometimes multi-media archives cannot help but color our forays into traditional archives. Yet, what Ed Folsom has deemed “Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives” and other theoretical reconsiderations of “archives” are subjects for a follow-up post.

Roundtable Discussion at EC/ASECS 2009

June 30, 2009

EC/ASECS conference, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 8-11 October, 2009, hosted by Lehigh University.

Bibliography, the ESTC, and 18th-Century Electronic Databases:  A Roundtable

 Inspired by James May’s recent essay, “Some Problems in ECCO (and ESTC),” in The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer (23.1 [Jan. 2009]), this roundtable will examine current bibliographic shortcomings found in ECCO, the Burney Collection of 17th and 18th Century Newspapers and the ESTC and will explore ways that scholars and the managers of such databases could join forces to help solve and improve these tools. Each participant will offer a 5 to 8-minute opening statement, and ample time will be allowed for audience involvement in the discussion. Offering an east coast forum, this roundtable will follow on the heels of a similar roundtable that will be taking place at the Huntington when the International ESTC board meets this September. In addition, “ECCO and EEBO: Some ‘Noisy Feedback’”, an ASECS 2010 roundtable organized by Anna Battigelli, will offer a “part-two” to this EC/ASECS session. 

Chair: Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University)

Participants: James E. May (Penn State University—DuBois), James Tierney (University of Missouri—St. Louis), David Vander Meulen (University of Virginia), Benjamin Pauley (Eastern Connecticut State University), Brian Geiger (ESTC, University of California, Riverside), Scott Dawson (Cengage-Gale).

This blog, Early Modern Online Bibliography (EMOB), offers an excellent opportunity for exchange and discussion in advance of these roundtables.

Roundtable Discussion at ASECS, 2010

June 25, 2009

ASECS conference, Albuquerque, N.M., 18-21 March, 2010

EEBO, ECCO, and Burney Collection Online:
Some “Noisy Feedback” 

In a 2009 article in the Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer, James May suggested that “scholars need to provide a little noisy feedback to corporate ventures like ECCO if future projects are to benefit from their expertise.”  This roundtable discussion is designed to provide constructive scholarly feedback for ECCO, EEBO, and the Burney Collection Online.  Brief (5-minute) presentations on these databases’ bibliographical problems should focus on ways in which they might be strengthened.  Possible topics include how to correct attribution errors, strengthen search mechanisms, detect and improve digital images that are insufficiently clear or in some cases illegible, augment and clarify holdings information, eliminate duplicate records, signal the existence of listings not reproduced, and so forth.  Following the brief presentations, panelists will consider the issues raised and invite members of the audience to participate in the discussion.  All participants are encouraged to read the set of related readings on the bibliography below, suggest additions to it, and join in discussions on this blog leading up to the session. 

Chair: Anna Battigelli, SUNY Plattsburgh

Panelists: James E. May (Penn State University—DuBois); Sayre Greenfield (University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg); Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University of Pennsylvania); Stephen Karian (Marquette University); Michael F. Suarez, S.J. (Rare Book School, University of Virginia)

Respondents:  Scott Dawson (Gale/Cengage); Brian Geiger (ESTC); Jo-Ann Hogan, (Proquest)


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