Posts Tagged ‘digital access’

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 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.

Collaborative Reading: Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton’s “Encoding form: A proposed database of poetic form”

March 8, 2010

Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton’s recent paper,“Encoding form: A proposed database of poetic form”, for APPOSITIONS:
Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature and Culture
‘s recent E-Conference: February-March, 2010, is suggestive of how new digital resources can be developed to augment the capabilities of existing tools such as EEBO and EECO. Responding many years later to Heather Dubrow’s 1979 call for “new methodology in early modern studies,” Scott-Baumann and Burton are constructing a database devoted to poetic form. Their project will afford a means of studying, historically and formally, poetic form by enabling queries about poetic form and generic transformations that resemble those we can now pose about words, thanks to electronic databases such as EEBO and EECO:

  • What is the origin (or origins) of a given form?
  • How does its structure, use, and meaning change over time?
  • Are there variations in use and meaning in different regions, or among different groups?
  • How does a given form relate to others, and how does this relationship change over time?
  • Concentrating on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry, Scott-Baumann and Burton will use existing EEBO-TCP texts and enhance them with additional mark-up that builds upon Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) tags. As those familiar with TEI documentation will recall, its tags include ones designed for encoding verse: “stanza divisions, caesurae, enjambment, rhyme scheme, and metrical information, as well as a special purpose rhyme element to support the simple analysis of rhyming words.” Because encoding capabilities extend beyond merely marking general formal conventions and can also entail encoding that represent interpretive judgments, Scott-Baumann and Burton will experiment with both possibilities. The inevitably time-consuming nature of their task will probably result in building the databases in stages.

    As for publication plans for the database, its creators “aim to negotiate with EEBO and Chadwyck-Healey to find a form of publication which both respects intellectual property and commercial interests, while also making this rich new material accessible to the widest possible audience.” Scott-Baumann and Burton have clearly thought hard about issues of access and how to maximize this database’s availability for users. They present four different possible options, formulated with an eye to those lacking access to EEBO. As they note though, much will depend on what arrangements they are able to make with EEBO/Chadwyck-Healey.

    Noting that their database, once built, could be expanded beyond its present focus on the 1500s and 1600s to cover all periods of poetry, they then devote a section of their paper to its potential scholarly and pedagogical uses. Most obvious perhaps is the usefulness this planned tool could have on advancing work in historical formalism, an emerging approach that revisits “poetic form as historically specific, historically determined, and historically efficacious.” The ability to conduct specific searches across a significant number of poetic texts enables the quick capture of evidence to support or disprove what are currently only hypothetical propositions based on a small textual sample. Rightly claiming that this database “would change the way in which scholarship on poetic form is conducted, Scott-Baumann and Burton detail a wealth of possible questions and issues it could serve. This section also offers a range of pedagogical uses for this tool and addresses a range of audiences from the undergraduate to the secondary student.

    Before a brief conclusion, the paper then turns to discussing the two-stage pilot project for the database:

    1. A small database containing information on the metrical structures and rhyme schemes of all verse in the first edition of 10 texts published between 1590 and 1599. 2. A larger database containing information on the metrical structures and rhyme schemes of all verse in first editions of texts published during this period.

    Scott-Baumann and Burton’s database plans present another way of thinking about EEBO and how to augment its value. That they have proposed to build their database using EEBO-TCP seems essentially a wise plan, notwithstanding unsettled questions about access.* For one, linking one’s project to an already well-established resource should ensure its visibility. Too often very worthy projects are launched but remain unknown to many who would benefit from them. In addition, such a tie-in helps ensure continuity among resources. This augmentation of EEBO’s capabilities and the efforts to provide continuity are similar to what NINES and 18thConnect are offering later periods.

    *One of the access options does offer “[o]pen access to database and texts but not with mark up. …if we are not able to make the XML-encoded texts freely available, we would display the texts in their entirety [as users request them], but with the encoding invisible. … and display the verse with, for example, its stresses marked with accents, or its rhyme scheme colour-coded, rather than with visible tags.”

    Collaboration, Costs, and Digital Resources

    January 30, 2010

    On February 19 and 20 Yale will host a graduate student symposium, The Past’s Digital Presence Conference: Database, Archive and Knowledge Work in the Humanities. A quick survey of the conference program and available abstracts indicate several topics that dovetail with issues or subjects that have engaged emob. Jessica Weare’s paper, “The Dark Tide: Digital Preservation, Interpretive Loss, and the Google Books Project”, for instance, examines the discarding of material evidence in the process of digitizing, Vera Brittain’s The Dark Tide. Similarly, Scott Spillman and Julia Mansfield’s presentation, “Mapping Eighteenth-Century Intellectual Networks”, discusses their work on Benjamin Franklin’s letters and their relationship within the Republic of Letters. The conference’s purpose also addresses many of the questions we have been posing on this blog:

    ■ How is digital technology changing methods of scholarly research with pre-digital sources in the humanities?
    ■ If the “medium is the message,” then how does the message change when primary sources are translated into digital media?
    ■ What kinds of new research opportunities do databases unlock and what do they make obsolete?
    ■ What is the future of the rare book and manuscript library and its use?
    ■ What biases are inherent in the widespread use of digitized material? How can we correct for them?
    ■ Amidst numerous benefits in accessibility, cost, and convenience, what concerns have been overlooked?

    Peter Stallybrass is offering the keynote, and Jacqueline Goldsby will be the colloquium speaker, while Willard McCartney, Rolena Adorno, and others will appear on the closing roundtable. Such a lineup points to the range of perspectives represented. The conference is free to all affiliated with a university.

    Among the places this conference has been announced is the JISC Digitisation News section of the UK Digitisation Programme website, and its announcement emphasizes the participation of students “from around the globe.”

    Collaboration as it occurs across boundaries is the implicit topic of this posting, and I wish to use reports from the JISC website both as a springboard and as a contrast in the discussing the topic.

    A 2008-2009 JISC report, Enriching Digital Resources 2008-2009, Enriching Digital Content program—a strand of the JISC Online Content Program—features a podcast with Ben Showers. Because of the national nature of JISC, the program described offers a unified, coherent approach to advancing digital resources for its higher institutions of education; it represents a collaborative agenda. In this podcast Showers explains the purpose of the program: Rather than fund the creation of new resources, the program invested £1.8 million to enhance and enrich existing digital content while also developing a system for universities and colleges to vet and recognize this work. He then turns to explaining the following four key benefits of this program:
    • “unlocking the hidden—making things that are hard to access easy” to obtain and preserve. To illustrate, he uses CORRAL (UK Colonial Registers and Royal Navy Logbooks) project as an example of opening up primary data to make it not only much more available but also to preserve it.
    • enhancing experiences of students. Here Showers exemplifies the Enlightening Science project at Sussex that offers students opportunities to watch video re-enactments of Newton’s experiments and read original texts by Newton and others.
    • speeding up research—once a document has been digitized, there is no need to repeat the process. The document will now be available for all other researchers to use.
    • widening participation—engaging broader audiences including not only faculty and students within Britain’s educational community but also participants globally.

    Turning to the new goals for the 2009-2011 program cycle, Showers notes an emphasis on the “clustering” of content, that is bringing various projects together and establishing, when appropriate, links among them. Another focus is further building skills and strategies within institutions to deliver digital content effectively. Finally, he mentions the strengthening of transatlantic partnerships, and here the US National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is given as an example. Of course, there is a long history of scholarly collaboration between the NEH and British institutions—perhaps most notably the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).

    Indeed, through collaborative digital grants offered by JISC and NEH several transatlantic projects are underway or near completion, including the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, a collaborative effort involving Oxford University and the Folger Library, and the St Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative, undertaken by Southampton University and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, VA, to advance scholarship on slavery. There are several others as well.

    Both the goals and benefits detailed by Showers are ones that would attract the support of diverse parties, and they do parallel many arguments being made on this side of the Atlantic for such work, including ones advanced by the NEH. Moreover, this and other JISC reports suggest that JISC has also helped broker mutually beneficial relationships between British universities and commercial vendors such as Cengage-Gale and ProQuest. Yet another JISC report, The Value of Money, offers arguments that we need to be making and also points the obstacles and divides affecting various types of collaboration in the United States.

    After offering the following figures on the return of money invested in the JISC,

    • For each £1 spent by JISC on the provision of e-resources, the return to the community in value of time saved in information gathering is at least £18.

    • For every £1 of the JISC services budget, the education and research community receives £9 of demonstrable value.

    • For every £1 JISC spent on securing national agreements for e-resources, the saving to the community was more than £26.

    the report summary offers the following remarks:

    These are the figures revealed by a recently-published Value for Money report on JISC services. Although many countries have centrally provided research and education networks, and some have provided supplementary services, no other country has a comparable single body providing an integrated range of network services, content services, advice, support and development programmes.

    The cost-effectiveness of JISC is again highlighted in two sidebars:

    These figures suggest that for every £1 JISC spent on securing national agreements for e-resources, the saving to the community was more than £26
    and
    The added value, equivalent to more than £156m per year, suggests the community is gaining 1.4 million person/days, by using e-resources rather than paper-based information.

    The end of the summary further reinforces why investments in JISC benefit the UK as a whole:

    The value of JISC activities extends beyond the benefits identified here. Education and research are high-value commodities that play an important role in the UK economy and underpin the UK’s global economic position.

    The JISC’s “Value of Money” report contains the types of arguments and data that we in the US need to be making. While our system of higher education does not operate under the centralized system that characterizes that of the UK, the push for more transparent reporting on and assessment of what our various universities and colleges are delivering perhaps provides an opportunity for new forms of collaboration. Through national scholarly societies, the NEH, Mellon Foundation, ALA, and more, we need to supply some “noisy feedback” from a dollars-and-cents/sense perspective about what investing in digital resources means not just for our institutions of higher learning but also for our society.

    Digital Humanities at AHA

    January 12, 2010

    In an earlier post we covered MLA panels devoted to digital humanities, electronic archives, and electronic tools. Thus, although the American Historical Association annual meeting has already recently concluded, we still thought it would be useful to review the sessions held at this convention. When available, I have included links to papers or abstracts.

    Humanities in the Digital Age, Part 1: Humanities in the Digital Age, Part 1: Digital Poster Session
    This session will provide participants with an overview of different digital tools and services and how historians are using them for research, teaching, and collaboration. After brief introductions to the various posters, participants would walk around the room spending time at the various stations, talking with the presenters and other participants. This will be followed in the afternoon by a hands-on workshop (session 73) where participants can learn more about how to use these specific tools. Co-sponsored by the National History Education Clearinghouse (NHEC):

  • Blogging, Jeremy Boggs, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Text Mining, Daniel J. Cohen, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Student Projects/Websites and Omeka, Jeffrey McClurken, University of Mary Washington
  • Zotero, Trevor Owens, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Teaching Tools, Kelly Schrum, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Web 2.0 – Flickr, YouTube/Video, Google Maps, Wikis, Jim Groom, University of Mary Washington
  • (more…)

    The Digital Revolution and the Scholar: Darnton’s View

    November 10, 2009

    To continue the discussion begun by our consideration of Ken Auletta’s Googled, we move to another recent work. Robert Darnton, who has opted out of the Google Book Settlement for Harvard, has faith that we can do better in terms of providing digital access. His The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future presents his vision and recommendations. As he asserts in a recent article for Publisher’s Weekly:

    Today, however, we have the means to make that utopia a reality. In many societies, despite enormous inequalities, ordinary people not only read but have access to a huge quantity of reading matter through the Internet. I would not minimize the digital divide, which separates the computerized world from the rest, nor would I underestimate the importance of traditional books. But the future is digital. And I believe that if we can resolve the current challenges facing books in ways that favor ordinary citizens, we can create a digital republic of letters. Much of my book is devoted to this premise and can be summarized in two words: digitize and democratize.

    Because versions of the chapters in Darnton’s The Case for Books have appeared elsewhere, those who do not have a copy of his book might find the following list of sources helpful. (The first two chapters are most recent).

    Chapter One comes from “Google & the Future of Books” that appeared in The New York Review of Books, (February 12, 2009).

    Chapter Two comes from “The Library in the New Age,” New York Review of Books, (June 12, 2008).

    Chapter Four comes from “Lost and Found in Cyberspace,” Chronicle of Higher Education ( March 12, 1999).

    Chapter Five comes from “The New Age of the Book,” New York Review of Books, (March 18, 1999).

    Chapter Eight comes from “The Great Book Massacre,” New York Review of Books, (April 26, 2001).

    Chapter Nine comes from “The Heresies of Bibliography,” New York Review of Books, (May 29, 2003).

    Chapter Ten comes from “Extraordinary Commonplaces,” New York Review of Books, (December 21, 2000).

    Chapter Eleven comes from “What Is the History of the Books? (widely reprinted), Daedalus (summer 1982): 65-83.

    Darnton has been interviewed by a number of sources about this book. Rebecca Rego Barry” “Google v. Gutenberg: Robert Darnton’s new book on old books and e-books” appears in Fine Books & Collecting.


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