Posts Tagged ‘SHARP’

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015–Part I

July 25, 2015

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) has featured digital projects at its conferences for many years now. With the SHARP 2013 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, SHARP began the tradition of hosting a stand-alone digital projects showcase at its conferences. During a two-hour time slot, creators present and demonstrate their projects to attendees. SHARP 2015, held in Montreal this past July 7th through July 10th, offered attendees the following fourteen fascinating digital projects and tools:

  • Jonathan Armoza, “Topic Words in Context (TWiC)”
  • Belinda Barnet, Jason Ensor and Sydney Shep, “A Prototype for Using Xanadu Transclusive Relationships in Academic Texts”
  • Troy J. Bassett, “At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901”
  • Léon Robichaud, “Bibliographie de l’histoire de Montréal”
  • Richard Cunningham, “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base”
  • Bertrand Gervais, “Arts et littératures numériques: du répertoire à l’agrégateur”
  • Joshua McEvilla, “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama”
  • Jordan Michael Howell, “Digital Bibliography Quick Start”
  • Hélène Huet, “Mapping Decadence”
  • Mireille Laforce, “Des innovations pour faciliter le dépôt légal à Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec” ”
  • Sophie Marcotte, “Le projet HyperRoy”
  • Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee, “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century”
  • Chantal Savoie, Pierre Barrette, Olivier Lapointe, “Le « Laboratoire de recherche sur la culture de grande consommation et la culture médiatique au Québec » : un ambitieux système de métadonnées pour mieux comprendre la culture populaire”
  • Mélodie Simard-Houde, “Présentation de la plateforme numérique Médias 19”

Complete abstracts may be found here on the SHARP 2015 conference website.

This two-part post, however, will focus on a few projects most relevant to EMOB’s focus. Part I will focus on Joshua McEvilla’s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” and Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century.” Part II will cover Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” and Richard Cunningham’s “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base.”

Joshua McEvilla‘s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” showcased his An Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language, a resource aimed at encouraging the study of neglected seventeenth-century dramatic authors whose work and contributions have been overshadowed by the attention given to Shakespeare.

mcevilla-sharp-2015-poster-1
(Click to enlarge)

As the site’s introduction explains, John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language (1655) is the first seventeenth-century book of quotations to draw its material exclusively from early modern dramas. As such, Cotgrave’s collection “provides a means of studying the original reception of the plays of Shakespeare with the plays of other dramatists” (Cotgrave home). In turn, Dr. McEvilla’s construction of a digital edition of Cotgrave’s work—complete with a concept-based faceted search tool (introduction and search tool), a full list of all the known plays from which the quotations are drawn, data tables, and much more—harnesses the power of the digital to transform this printed resource into a dynamic tool. Besides assisting researchers and encouraging study of neglected English seventeenth-century dramatic works, the Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s ETWL also seems useful for teaching English drama in an advanced undergraduate classroom or graduate course. For those with access to Early English Books Online (EEBO) and/or 17th and 18th Century Burney Newspaper Collection, McEvilla’s tool could serve as an important complement in assisting students understand the contexts for the drama contained in EEBO or in providing them with a guide for selecting texts in EEBO. That the bookseller Humphrey Moseley held the license to print Cotgrave’s work is also worthy of note. As David Kastan recounts in “Humphrey Moseley and the Invention of English Literature,” Moseley played an important role in what he terms the “invention” of English literature (see Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, Univ. of Mass Press, 2007, pp. 104-124).

Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s Scottish Chapbook Project at the University of Guelph draws from the university’s collection of Scottish chapbooks—the largest such collection in North America. A true exercise in collaboration, the digital project results from the cooperation of the university’s Archival and Special Collections and its Department of History”. Not only have librarians, faculty, and graduate students been involved, but undergraduate students (114 since 2013!) in Dr. Andrew Ross’s digital humanities course have helped to build various exhibits as the one depicted in this image.

Exhibit: A Groat's Worth of Wit for a Penny

Exhibit: A Groat’s Worth of Wit for a Penny

(Click to enlarge)

Besides the exhibits, the site also features teaching modules geared to high school instruction, thus extending the reach of this work beyond the university student population.

Among the site’s goals stated in the SHARP abstract is the aim of supporting “an ongoing analysis of the role of woodcut images for the popular readership in Scotland during the early modern period” as well as “the goals of the recently formed Chapbook Working Group of the UK Bibliographic Society.” At present one can browse 416 items, and more are being added regularly. The ultimate aim of this project is to integrate all the estimated extant 10,000 Scottish chapbooks in an interconnected site. Such a long-term goal of integration and interconnection is a promising one, especially in terms of centralizing sources and information on a given topic. As a related aside in terms of integration of projects, Benjamin Pauley’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker (see prior emob post, post, and post) is now being phased out, and its information being incorporated into the English Short Title Catalogue.

Please explore these tools and offer your comments and suggestions.

Book History and Digital Humanities: SHARP at #MLA 14 #s738

January 27, 2014

The recent MLA 2014 conference featured numerous sessions dealing with digital humanities in its various incarnations. More than a few of those sessions dealt with the interrelationships between new and old technologies, including Session 738, a stimulating roundtable sponsored by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and organized by Lise Jalliant (University of Newcastle). Unfortunately, Lise was not able to attend MLA as planned, so Eleanor Shevlin served as chair in her stead.

Designed to “shed light on the digital future of book history and the bibliographical roots of digital humanities” (MLA special session proposal), the “Book History and Digital Humanities” roundtable featured six projects that attest to the close interrelationships between the two fields. The presentations were delivered in the chronological order of the projects. Not only did these projects illustrate the ways in which the digital and book historical are tightly intertwined, but they also demonstrated various technological advances as they highlighted what a new generation of digital capabilities and thinking are affording scholarship.

Greg Hickman, head of the University of Iowa’s Special Collections and Archives, opened the session by discussing the Atlas of Early Printing, an interactive map that provides a visualization of printing’s spread during the incunabula period. The 2013 version Greg demonstrated offers a technological advance over the map’s flash-based design launched in 2008 and has been primed to operate effectively on mobile devices as well as desktops.

Atlas of Early Printing

Atlas of Early Printing


Unlike the two-dimensional print maps from which it draws its inspiration, the Atlas contains information related to the spread of print such as the locations of paper mills, universities, trade routes. Users can select all or any of this additional information to create specific contextualizations about the ways the press and printing took hold throughout Europe in the decades leading up to the sixteenth century.

Interested in using technology for purposes beyond gathering, organizing, and explaining information, Michael Gavin, a professor of English at the University of South Carolina, discussed using computer simulation to create a more generative way of working with information. Specifically, Gavin, drawing from Joshua Epstein’s work in agent-based computational simulation to model early modern print culture and to “grow information” about seventeenth- and eighteenth-century book trade issues including censorship and the effects readers exercised on printers and booksellers. The use of such computer modeling focuses on simulating social behavior to generate and test information; if the model is right, then it should not crash.

The director of NINES and professor of English at University of Virginia, Andrew Stauffer, made a cogent plea for the imperiled status of nineteenth-century printed books. Individual copies of nineteenth-century books, often still in the stacks or in the process of being de-accessioned (if not already removed), possess rich, layered histories and the evidence of their multiple temporalities. In an effort to preserve the histories of these works “hidden in plain sight,” In addition to advocating for the primacy of the printed work as a site embodying distinct, irreplaceable data, Stauffer is developing a crowd-sourcing project that will ask academic institutions, other holding bodies and individuals to use Instagram and other forms of technology to capture digitally this heritage and make it accessible.

Matthew Laven, the Associate Program Coordinator of the Mellon-funded “Cross Boundaries: Re-envisioning the Humanities for the 21st Century” at St. Lawrence University, addressed the question “What is a digital bibliography of a book?” through his work on a dynamic, visually-enriched publishing history of Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop (1927) for the Willa Cather Archive. Acting as a case study for the digital representations of both various material artifacts (e.g., manuscripts, printed translations, unusual editions) and textual variances, the project also seeks to convey the bibliographical ties among the various artifacts and is informed by a Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR)-based ontology.

Hannah McGregor, a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta, spoke about constructing an innovative methodological approach to studying periodicals that she and Paul Hjartarson, professor of English and film studies at the University of Alberta, have been developing in collaboration with the Editing Modernism in Canada research group. A key working hypothesis of this project is that periodicals are ideally situated for digital remediation as relational databases because they themselves resemble databases (that the word “magazine” also meant a storehouse bespeaks this similarity). While middlebrow magazines serve as the project’s focal point, McGregor drew her examples from the Western Home Monthly and Pictorial Review. The issue of labeling—what to call different items, the problem of categories and categorization—has been a vexed point and one no doubt complicated by the multiplicities of genres and the nature of periodical materials (think of the Burney 17th and 18th Century Newspaper Collection). This issue of labeling underscored the ways in which coding is important intellectual labor.

The final participant, Elizabeth Wilson-Gordon, professor of English at King’s University College in Alberta, presented the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP). A collaborative effort involving Canadian, U.K. and U.S., institutions, the project seeks to advance research in the history of modernist presses and publishing. Wilson-Gordon used Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press to illustrate the capabilities of MAPP. The Hogarth Press offered an especially rich example because of the insights its history affords about Woolf and her work but also because of its importance to interwar publishing and its longevity throughout the twentieth century. Like many of the other projects discussed, MAPP illustrated the importance of collaboration and communities of scholars working in tandem. The launch of the Hogarth Press open-access portion of MAPP is slated for 2017.

The Book History and Digital Humanities session was one of three excellent panels sponsored by SHARP. SHARP’s liaison to MLA, Greg Barnhisel has written a full account of the other two, equally invigorating sessions for the spring issue of SHARP News: the official SHARP panel, Session # 501 Books and the Law, and Session #398 Virginia Woolf and Book History, co-sponsored with the Virginia Woolf Society.

Commercial Databases: Greater Access to JStor, EEBO, ECCO, Burney, and more in 2014?

January 2, 2014

 As EMOB readers know, equal access to various subscription databases has been one of our key concerns over the years. Posts such Unequal Access and Commercial Databases have addressed this problem in detail, while other entries have suggested arguments to present to administrators and librarians as to why subscribing to these resources is crucial for scholars and students alike. From time to time we have been able to obtain trial subscriptions to commercial databases—EEBO, ECCO, WWO, Burney, Orlando—for EMOB readers. Most recently, Anna has detailed a Cengage-Gale trial granted to SUNY institution and the results of that trial.

Issues of access, however, continue to affect many—both those whose institutions do not subscribe to these digital resources and those whose status as independent scholars, retired, or seeking employment  means that they lack the necessary affiliation to gain access. Yet some recent developments indicate that 2014 might be a turning point in gaining greater albeit not equal access for scholars.

JStor, for instance, has launched a number of initiatives.

  • Two years ago JStor instituted Early Journal Content, which made its holdings of material “published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world.”
  • After a three-year pilot, JStor established the Alumni Access program for institutions participating in JStor. This video features a presentation on Alumni Access given at the Fall 2012 Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) conference. SAGE journals also has a similar program.
  • In March 2012, as a follow-up of sorts to its Early Journal Content, JStor commenced its Register & Read program. This program enables those without institutional access to gain access to a subset of JStor—to articles in roughly 700 journals; the program, however, does not enable access to current material. See FAQs for more information.

Most promising, perhaps, is JStor’s JPass launched this past fall. JPass offers individuals access to 83% of JStor’s database for a fee ranging from $19.50 a month to $199.00 a year. The JPass enables unlimited access for reading articles contained in 1,500 journals and published up until 3 to 5 years prior. The program also allows JPass holders the ability to download a limited number of articles each month. Equally promising, in late October the Modern Language Association (MLA) announced that it had just added discounts on the JPass as a member benefit. Rather than pay $199 for annual subscription to JPass, MLA members can obtain this pass for only $99 per year.  This model resembles to some degree that of the The British Newspaper Archive , which offers annual, monthly, week, and daily access plans.

MLA, however, is not the only scholarly society to add access to databases as a member benefit.  Other societies and scholarly organizations (including the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing [SHARP])are, or will be shortly, making this a new member benefit.

Most impressive is the initiative by the Renaissance Society of America (RAS). This past November RSA announced that all members would enjoy full access to Early English Books Online.  RSA evidently secured an institutional subscription to EEBO, thus enabling all its members to have free access to EEBO. An experiment of sorts by Proquest and RSA, this model of a society acting as an institutional subscriber could serve as an example to others. At the same time, such subscriptions are costly to the society and databases would need to be ones that were relevant to most if not all members. Another potential risk that has arisen entails cancellation of database subscriptions by academic libraries based on the rationale that faculty members have access to a given database because of their membership in a professional organization. Such cancellations are extremely shortsighted and ignore entirely the pedagogical benefits of these databases for undergraduate and graduate students alike. Similarly, such a move seems particularly irrational given the large-scale push to promote undergraduate research and in light of the unusual opportunities that access to these primary texts offers undergraduates.Understandably such cancellations are not conducive to inspiring confidence in publishers of these databases to engage in such experiments.

To date Cengage-Gale has no plans to embark on individual plans or the like. For more than a few years, it has been investigating possible models that would allow it do so, but it has yet to discover one that is financially viable or that would not conflict with existing contracts (this latter issue is one often overlooked, but these contracts carry many clauses and can complicate opening up access given existing agreements with subscribing institutions). It has, however, been successful in lowering the costs of such databases as ECCO and 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, enabling more academic libraries to be able to afford subscriptions.

This overview has not even touched upon the issues surrounding green and gold standards of open access, nor has it discussed the policies related to these standards announced in 2012-2103 in the UK, Australia, and continental Europe. Yet, these issues deserve an independent post in the future.

In the meantime, it would be interesting to hear what others think of these initiatives and what they might signal for better if not full equal access in the future.  Do these various plans seem affordable? What other solutions might be offered?