16.602 new technologies in Renaissance studies

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Apr 05 2003 - 01:35:39 EST

  • Next message: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 601.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Sat, 05 Apr 2003 07:17:42 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: New Tech Ren Studies Rpt


       Thanks to the judicious cross-posting of an open invitation to attend
       Special Sessions at the 2003 Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America
       I was able to observe a group of researchers and pedagogues "document
       innovative ways in which computing technology is being incorporated into
       the scholarly activity of our community." I add that the invitation, "We
       invite you to join us", with rhetorical finesse reached out across the
       boundaries of community to the curious -- or so I interpreted the text of
       Bowen and Siemens, the organisers of the sessions gathered under the
       rubric New Technologies and Renaissance Studies, and document it here for
       future processing. Those of that community who participate by both posting
       and lurking in this Humanist community might gloss and enhance what is
       captured below.

       If there is a single theme that I can abstract from the two days of
       sessions it is that scholarly activity is in certain quarters presently
       centred on navigation and segmentation. Many of the presentations dealt
       with the preparation or the appropriate chunking of a an object of study
       in order to trace the interpretations of that object of study. Interface
       was a marked concern. Segmentation of the source to provide "good"
       navigation of a representation or model was a recurrent theme whether the
       object of study was a single artefact or sets of metadata.

       - Ian Lancashire (U Toronto): Encoding Renaissance Electronic Texts.

       Reminds us that the purpose of a project guides the granularity of the
       encoding. He reminds us of the importance of taking personal
       responsibility for the tag sets one employs. Reminds us of the
       difficulties of picking up tag sets and instruction manuals geared to
       capturing content when features of the rendition are the important aspects
       for the researcher to investigate. The problem of characters sets and
       encoding challenges scholars wanting to make transcriptions shareable
       across platforms. And it is not a problem for the letter forms,
       brevigraphs and typographic signs of Renaissance book
       production -- witness diacriticals for euro-languages other than English.

       Even if the appropriate character sets were available to every terminal of
       every potential user, Ian reminds us tvocabulary counts. A tag name is not
       just an empty reference. It says something about the interpretation of the
       text element. When in the history of lexicography is a lemma not a lemma
       but a name, a rubric, a headword? When in the history of lexicography is
       an entry not a definition but an explanation, an illustration, a
       translation? Cautious about inadvertant connotations of the element names
       used to encode, Ian takes are not betrathe evidence of a shift
       fromworld-centred to word-centred orientations, the shift from wordbooks
       full of thing-centred denotative entries used to explore the world towards
       dictionaries designed to make language use more precise. Attention to
       detail and context marks the seasoned humanities computeris It is
       sensivity to the consequences of saying "x is y" even contingently thatI
       can just imagine the reverberation in conversations about paratactic and
       hypotactic composition, taxonomic or topical organization of knowledge
       representation, the parallels between lexicography and, for example,
       botanical illustration. Conversationsall enabled by careful steps in _not_
       encoding one phenenomena as an example of another. It is not hesitancy as
       a virtue. It is respect for one's responsibilities. In my emblem book the
       blazon for Ian has the motto adopt and adapt and remind".

        - Richard S. Bear (U Oregon): Nexus: Reflections on the First Eight
           Years of Renascence Editions.

       In my emblem book Richard's insignia is accompanied by a dizain devoted to
       craft and commitment". As one of the distinguished scholar's in the
       audience remRichard's Renascence Editions is a tremendous resource that
       serves public readership and the profession. From the outset mindful of
       the goal of facilitating the performing of an action at a distance,
       Richard keeps alive the vision of a public domain by judiciously juggling
       copyright with availibility, suitability and link rot. Some of the
       copytexts arefreely available 19th century editions are keyed in,
       marked-up and made accessible with the appropriate caveats. Other texts
       make their way into the collection when a site is threatened with

       Renascence Editions is geared to works of literature being found by
       readers. Renascence Editionsleveragesthe advantage of serving up static
       files marked up in HTML -- the advantage of not being in deep Web. WWW
       search engines can index and point users to the material. Links from
       instructor-authored class WWW resources remain stable.

       The careful distinction between work and text provides that chance for
       readers to find each other. And again I invoke the trope of negative
       space: what is not done to encode a text. No page numbers forces
       researchers wishing to report on their findings to reference scholarly
       editions. The secret totext maintenance for readership attraction sites
       is to leave readers with something to do. And indeed one of the
       sophisticated researchers in attendence at the session provided the
       feedback on the welcome ability to access versions of the texts allowed
       for some preliminary testing of hypothesizes or in the language of the
       Renascence Editions disclaimer "for casual text searches to aid in the
       work [...]" and was apparently pleased to have this experience orient the
       reading of other the editions. For further interesting and fine examples
       of the genre of the learned caveat see

         - Richard Cunningham (Acadia U): Coincidental Technologies: Moving Parts
           in Early Modern Books and in Early Hypertext.

       If there is no thaumaturgy without ergatocracy in the nitty gritty world
       of electronic preparation and delivery, there are those magical moments
       where the appropriate challenge finds its team. Richard Cunningham's
       fascination wit volvelles in early modern printed books is contagious.
       Volvelles are moving parts to be cut out and assembled into working
       navigation instruments or serve as patterns for the construction of such
       instruments. Richard was drawn into this work via experiments in active
       reading: assembling the instruments as a way of reading the instructions.

       In bringing such experiences online, acsimile does not suffice. The
       digital gears have to spin.

       Practicalities of drawing upon the combined expertise of two different
       students, one well-versed in graphic programs to produce vector-based
       graphics using Macromedia Fireworks and the other with scripting
       experience to animate the the layered images using Macromedia Flash. I
       signal the use of a software suite and the smooth division of labour it
       permits. What the production also revealed was that very little
       automation is possible since each volvelle presents its own pecularities
       and arrangements. Few of the components can be reutilized from
       digitalization to digitalization.

       This situation presents many an administrative challenge in order to
       garner the necessary resources to produce a significant set of examples
       when having to produce source code for each exemplar. However from a
        humanities computing perspective, this work begins to permit some very
       interesting opportunities. One can imagine using such a regular
       representation to generate metadata: which of the volvelles have
       perforations, which have pointer bars, which have multiple disks. Indeed
       embedding comments in the source code help such cataloguing efforts.
       However the wo sets of representations of the artefact (the layering of
       the graphic and the animation scripting) also offer the chance to compute
       some interesting ratios of information density of these digital
       reproductions of artefacts which are themselves interfaces to a stored
       knowledge of calculation procedures pre-Babbage and pre-Napier. Way cool
       and a challenge to any humanities computerists who have learnt or will
       learn languages such as SVG and SMIL to build upon such work in
       visualizing pre-video monitor interfaces.

         - Stephanie Thomas (Sheffield Hallam U): The Exploration and Development
           of Tools for Active Reading.

       One of the joys of interactive animation is that an author can
       periodically take control away from the click-and-point user through the
       clever updating of the screen after a given time out or a given count of
       clicks. That is not the type of interface game that Stephanie Thomas
       demonstrated. However what she did present invites us to consider some of
       assumptions of that animate the design of the display of textual variants:
       especially that of the single reader with all witness before their
       eyes.Actual readers explore a set of variants in different ways:
       systematic comparision of two witnesses, cycling through the variants at
       one locus, ignoring variants while reading through a witness. I was lucky
       during one of the breaks to hear Stephanie elaborate on the details from a
       test of the interface with a group of student users and provide some
       wonderful anecdotes. Working in pairs the students explored the material
       to collect evidence for answers to some guiding questions. One pair
       exported (using the by now traditional copy-and-paste method) two versions
       into a wordprocessing program from where they continued to conduct their
       reading and analysis. I report the anecdote here to stretch the received
       notion of interface (from intra-application to intra-system to
       cross-platform) and to consider the constructivist possibilities of having
       one group of students work from one versions and another group from an
       other version and watch them discuss whose variant is a variant of whose.
       What's a variant for but to feed text analysis tools?

       In all seriousness in Stephanie's presentation we found once again the
       theme of reaching readers, cultivating audiences. At theme found from
       start to finish in the workings of creating these resources, from
       designing guided discovery to exportable results, invention finds eloque
       testimonies for a reading of places to serve a taking place of dialogue
       and interchange. The fortuitious is well-prepared.

         - James H Forse (Bowling Green U): Spread Your Bibliography.

       The wise ask questions. Wanting to trace the evidence of the assertions of
       critiques and literary historians of a rise in anti-Spanish prejudice in
       the Elizabethan and Jacobean period, James Forse undertook he tedious task
       of data entry himself. The use of spreadsheet software allowed him to
       conduct a historical analysis of re-issues and the formats. In the
       discussion period following the presentation of his results and showing
       the impressive breadth of information captured in simple sortable column
       and row layout, he reported seeking advice about database versus
       spreadsheet performance issues.During his introductory remarks he offered
       us a calculation of how many coordinated index cards it would take to
       reproduce such a manipulable data set. I failed to note the numbers. What
       I did not fail to note was determination to use a tool that was accessible
       and the choice not to jump to learning the intricacies of database
       software in a sense also keeps the data more accessible.

       Wanting to find out more, I located a reference to Forse's "Playwrights in
       Print, 1560-1642: A Case-Study in Using Spreadsheets for Bibliographic
       Analysis and Speculation." SRASP, 24 (2001). Unfortunately it appears the
       electronic version of the SRASP (Shakespeare and Renaissance Association
       [of West Virginia]: Selected Papers) has not appeared since 1999. Perish
       the thought that Professor Forse's data set be lost for lack of a proper

         - Deborah S. Lacoste (U Western Ontario): Computer-Aided Repertory
       Studies: Online Access to Chant Sources.

       How lovely of the organisers to have placed in the same session another
       presentation that addressed the breadth-depth polarity of temptation: more
       records versus more fields in each record. Deborah Lacoste outlined some
       of the choices and modifications made to the indices of chants collected
       in the Cantus database. As well, she described the process for creating
       and contributing quality-controlled indices. It is not solely an in-house
       operation. Researchers world-wide participate in the growth of the

         - Shawn Martin (UMI/ProQuest): Early English Books Online

       Offered a refreshing reminder that practicalities and technicalities are
       separate aspects of project management.

         - Eileen Gardiner (Italica Press) and Ronald G. Musto (Italica Press):
       New E-Books from the ACLS History E-Book Project.

       The question period generated a consideration of the administrative
       dimension of subscriptions. Subscriptions that are site-specific force
       institutions to administer proxy-servers for off-site access by their
       members. I predict that user-based subscription will quickly become a
       desideratum. Some keeper of the academic economy will want to see the
       access statistics are analysed and perhaps force the hand of the
       e-publishers offer differential rates for access outside of peak times is
       cheaper. Data-mining by robots like set a video recorder. E-publishers
       will perhaps also be led to broker arrangements whereby 24/7 access is
       capitalized in a global context with institutions in sufficiently
       separated time zones sharing access on 12 on 12 off basis. If the premium
       on shelf space led in part to the support of annual subscriptions to
       electronic publishing services, I am willing to wager that the pressure
       will be on to realize true savings: it just might be more cost-effective
       for institutions to purchase electronic editions outright for use on local
       servers especially if those the rights permit scholars to excerpt segments
       for quotation which many a locked-down e-book in a subscription service
       does not currently allow. E-books might just be too uncitable and
       therefore not be enticing for the circulation of ideas (or for assessing
       impact for merit purposes).

       Oh why not be polemical! Whether money exchanges hands or not, an e-book
       is a product distributed on stony ground, an electronic edition is a
       service to a community.

         - William R. Bowen (U Toronto): Iter: Building Gateways from Catalogue
           to Collection.

       From Willam Bowen's presentation I gathered that, in a sense, Iter is a
       portal topublishers, communities, markets. Its gateway function
       categorizes it for me in the space of the Internet accessed by HTTP that
       is not indexed by the robots of search engines that scout the WWW (it is
       space aka as deep web). I think its orientation to service versus product
       is in part a function of a guild model at work. I was clear in the answer
       to a question (who does the work) that a practical outlook geared to
       sustainability guided the development of the partnerships and
       infrasctructure: graduate student apprentices learn their craft through
       association with Iter.

         - Melinda Spencer Kingsbury (U Kentucky): Katherine Philips' Friendship
       Poems: An Approach to Building Image-based Electronic Editions of Early
       Modern Poetry.

       Absent and no paper read in absentia. Maybe a URL will follow.

         - Raymond G. Siemens (Malaspina U-C), Barbara Bond (U Victoria),
           Terra Dickson (U British Columbia), and Karin Armstrong (Malaspina
           Prototyping an Electronic Edition of the Devonshire MS.>
       A project by a research group focussed on a group of writers. Lots and
       lots of work, careful thinking, reading and listening with a view to
       create a "quickly, easily, intuitively, navigable" electronic edition.
       Barbara Bond's invocation of the metaphor of house construction is apt and
       it is one won from experience. Would that house builders follow her as
       well in the principles of consistency and documentation.

       The technology has assisted in the reading of the manuscript for
       transcription purposes and now the group is keen I believe to spread an
       enthusiasm for direct interaction with the digital image, initiate others
       to the reading of handwriting and widen the conversation about the genesis
       and signification of such a multi-authored record.

         - Peter Lukehart (Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National
           Gallery of Art): Virtual Knowledge and Early Modern Visual Culture.

       It was one of those enjoyable segues to turn from manuscripts to an
       exhibit about the illustration of hanwww.writingonhands.org Peter
       Lukehart provided some new vocabulary from the realm of museumology. He
       situated that the addition of "interactives" to static online catalogues
       in a conceptual space between the walking tour of manuscripts, books and
       prints in case and the hands-on programs to work with "manipulatives" (as
       much a fun educational experience for adults as for children). Due to
       funding considerations on of the "deliverables" a CD-ROM fell by the
       wayside. It is not clear to me if the interactive multimedia would
       accompany the exhibition catalogue on the proposed CD-ROM. I suspect that
       the catalogue was not issued in a burnt to CD format -- it is out of
       print. And the creator-shepherds have moved on to other institutions and
       own no rights in the product. Some university press just might have a
       chance to hooked up with galleries and museums to create a back list
       service for out of print catalogues available somewhere somehow in digital

         - David Bearman (Art Museum Image Consortium): Building Educational
       Partnerships on the Web: Museum Digital Documentation in Education.

       A very interesting presentation where the role of the distributor is key
       in not only selling access to the database but also in providing the
       interface for users to query the database. Also continuing discussion of
       the license structure [site (where you are) versus user (who you are)]
       Also a report on the success of the strategy to use social (versus
       technical) policing of the respect for intellectual property rights.

         - Sally-Beth Maclean (U Toronto) and Alan Somerset (U Western Ontario):
           Performers on the Road: Tracking their Tours with the REED Patrons and
           Performances Internet.
         - Julia Flanders (Brown U): Renaissance Women Online.

       Unfortunately I could not attent the last session. Perhaps some one can
       contribute a report to Humanist.

       A final word of thanks to the organisers for a very stimulating two days
       of show and tell. It is a genre I have grown to appreciate anew.


    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat Apr 05 2003 - 01:39:46 EST