Digital Editing and Archiving

Adams, Wright R. “Archiving Digital Materials: An Overview of the Issues.” Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve 19.4 (2009): 325-335.

Adams’ article takes a broad view of some of the key ideological challenges of storage systems that exist digitally rather than physical, but also some of the ideological and practical necessities of digital storage practices. In scanning the piece, it’s easy for us to find Adams discussing some of the same topics that we’ve been getting into as a group, but a closer look shows us that Adams is also thinking about things we have yet to explore, including the crossover from field to field and the paradoxical needs for both unification and diversification.

Armstrong, Pam, and Bak, Greg. “Points of Convergence: Seamless Long-Term Access to Digital Publications and Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada.” Archival Science 8.4 (2008): 279-293.

This article breaks down for readers the recent LAC initiatives of creating digital archiving systems for Canada’s national library that allow for broad access both within and outside of the nation. Bak and Armstrong make a strong case for LAC’s burgeoning records system and chart the efforts of the government to provide digital sharing for knowledge across the board, not only in the humanities. Though this article is more off the beaten path of what we’ve generally been discussing in our course, it is interesting to read a bit about the specifications of the LAC system from technical and practical standpoints, and I feel the piece does tie somewhat into a discussion about the qualities that define an archive and an archivist’s tasks.

Bunde, Janet and Deena Engel. “Computing in the Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Partnership in Undergraduate Education.” Journal of Archival Organization 8 (2010): 149–159.

This article discusses the interdisciplinary nature of humanities computing, and how one course at NYU collaborated between departments to develop a website that contained materials from the university’s archives collections. The article is especially interesting when thinking about the question of the editor/archivist divide, because the authors of the article and the course seem to see themselves solely as archivists and not editors, despite designing the website, inputting materials on the site based on their own research, and using the word “curate” a lot. It is also interesting to note that they used the TEI as their guideline.

Carlquist, Jonas. “Medieval Manuscripts, Hypertext and Reading: Visions of Digital Editions.” Lit Linguist Computing 19.1 (2004): 105-118.

This article, written by a medieval scholar working in both (Old Swedish) manuscript and digital texts, explores the possibilities for digital editions to not only to restore or reproduce features of medieval manuscripts that were lost with the transition to the printing press. In addition to highlighting regional differences in manuscript culture, he points to these differences as being all but impossible to reproduce in conventional print, while digital versions can restore important marginal/scribal notes and symbols and thereby give modern readers a clearer understanding of the style of medieval texts, and a closer approximation of how they were intended to be read.

Carlson, John Ivor. “Translating the Alliterative Morte Arthure into a Digital Medium: The Influence of Physical Context on Editorial Theory.” Arthurian (International Arthurian Soc. – North American Branch) 20.2 (2010): 28-44.

In this article, Carlson makes an argument that would appear to run along the same lines as Cloud’s in “Fiatflux,” i.e. that altering the physical context of a text entails a change in the way the poem is perceived and analyzed. Using the modern digital edition of the Alliterative Morte Arthure, he defines the limits of the print medium and then asks if a dynamic digital edition that will allow readers to access multiple readings at one time. This might enable new methods of textual analysis that will fundamentally influence editorial theory, so that it is based on epistemological concerns regarding the gathering and sharing of information and not static representation.

Deegan, Marilyn. “Management of the Life Cycle of Digital Library Materials.” Liber Quarterly 11.4 (2001): 400-409. Web.

Deegan’s article lays out the necessity of preservation techniques in creating digital content in the humanities. Taking digitization of humanities materials as a given, she also looks at digital libraries themselves, new systems and databases being created as archival methods begin to change in the age of Web 2.0. This piece, published a decade ago, helps foreground for us some of the techniques of preservation we may have thought were simply inherent in content created for electronic circulation. From the article, it seems from what Deegan wrote in 2001 that there was and perhaps still is a question of whether the need for preservation gave rise to digital archives, or whether digital content gave rise to a need for preservation.

Flecker, Dale. “Digital Archiving: What is Involved?” EDUCAUSE Review (January/February 2003): 10-11. Web.

This article outlines the problematic nature of archiving: it is difficult to maintain due to the ever-advancing technology; it is costly; it is open to the “free-rider syndrome;” and there is no control over the format or documentation of files. Flecker says that it is up to the higher education community to take responsibility for funding to help alleviate such problems.

Hodge, Gail M. “Best Practices for Digital Archiving.” D-Lib Magazine. 6.1 (2000): Web.

This article outlines the standards for digital archiving including selection, cataloging, preserving and storing. While there are still many issues to be resolved and technology continues to develop, the collaborative efforts of stakeholder, including librarians, archivists and publishers, will ensure the preservation and continued access to our scientific and technological heritage.

Hughes, Janet A. “Issues and Concerns with the Archiving of Electronic Journals.” Science & Technology Libraries 22.3 (2004): 113-136.

Hughes asks a question that may often slip under the radar in a discussion about representations of multiple editions in digital media: what archival methods ought to be practiced for texts that are born in both forms, i.e. publications with both print and electronic versions? In our discussion of digital representation and archiving techniques, we have mostly concerned ourselves with the problem of preserving (and representing) multiple editions at once, digitally. This article may take us in another direction—but perhaps a direction worth looking towards?—by concerning itself with editions that are released in several formats from the outset.

Manoff, Marlene. “Archive and Database as Metaphor: Theorizing the Historical Record.” Portal: Libraries and the Academy 10.4 (2010): 385-98.
Manoff’s main point is that theorizations about archives and databases can help us to understand the ways that digital objects change cultural memory and history. Manoff summarizes a debate about whether the database is a new genre for contemporary culture, which is contested by Jerome McGann, who sees a database as an instrument. Manoff then lists some digital projects that are offering new kinds of research, one of them being the Library of Congress’ archive of public Twitter tweets. This makes me question if all forms of culture necessarily should be preserved just because they can be – is everything better than omitting some documents? Manoff also discusses some problematic aspects of digital projects, such as accessibility and transparency. When evaluating scholarly archives and companies such as Gale and ProQuest, Manoff makes the important point that “digitization does not lead in any simple or straightforward way to the democratization of knowledge” since these resources are quite expensive to purchase (390). She also notes Google’s lack of transparency for its algorithms, a topic we have discussed in class. Manoff offers the solution of non-profit sector collaborations and public private partnerships as alternative sources of funding for projects.

McKay, Sally. “Digitization in an Archival Environment.” New Challenges Facing Academic Librarians Today: Electronic Journals, Archival Digitization, Document Delivery, etc. Eds. Jean Caswell, Paul G. Haschak, and Dayne Sherman. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005. 207-21.

In this chapter, McKay explains that institutional goals of libraries and museums are often in conflict with the structure of ideal digital conversion and archive management projects. Thus, she argues that digital resources are themselves assets. After discussing advantages and disadvantages of digitization projects, McKay reviews some legal, ethical, and technical issues. I learned that “metadata standards,” or data about data, now exist to “keep digital files intact and authentic” (212). Interestingly, metadata is included as both a legal issue (in regards to maintaining the best practice of having authentic files) and as a technical issue (to minimize the possibility of future inaccessibility). McKay ends the chapter with suggestions for the selection of which collections to digitize, emphasizing that the goals of a conversion project should guide decisions – not the technology.

Norcia, Megan A. “Out of the Ivory Tower Endlessly Rocking: Collaborating across Disciplines and Professions to Promote Student Learning in the Digital Archive.” Pedagogy 8.1 (2008): 91-114.

Norica’s article is a cry for a collaborative methodology that spans not only disciplines, but profession types as well. The essay begins by identifying the criticisms of elitism leveled at academia, criticisms most proven by the academy’s cataloguing systems. This paradigm, Norcia claims, is exactly what the tools and open nature of the digital realm could easily break out of, shifting the way information is gathered and disseminated from specialized language, knowledge, and access towards global understanding, and the best way to utilize current technology to promote this new way of doing things is through the use of digital archives. This article provides a working example of the best ideals of digital archiving, focusing on openness, collaboration, and the enrichment they can offer to learning—some of the same goals our class often ends up discussing.

Parry, Marc. “The Humanities Go Google.” Chronicle of Higher Education 56.3 (2010): Web.

This article is more in the style of popular journalism than scholarly article, although it’s published in a scholarly journal and seems thorough enough to be useful for our studies. The piece looks at a team of researchers at Stanford University who are seeking to digitize as much of the world’s output of literature as possible, allowing future scholars to “Google” a single word, for example, and trace its recurrence through all of literature.  Not surprisingly, Google Books is the backing for the project, which the article’s author refers to as “Big Data”.

The Stanford researchers (Moretti and Jockner, along with teams of graduate and doctoral students), note how difficult it is to teach PhD students in English Literature “how to code”, but have nevertheless marked up/digitized 12 million books in over 300 languages, estimated at more than 10% of all books published since Gutenberg.

However, one major theorist has called the project a “train wreck”, and Katie Trumpener, who has published numerous articles that critique the project and similar ones, fears that the specificity of literature will be lost.  And this specificity, she argues, this micro-level interpretation, is precisely why and how literature moves us.  Turning literature into a giant database does it no service, she says, and in fact does it a significant disservice. Nevertheless, she credits Moretti with being an original and important theorist, even as she fears the ability of future researchers to use the work as Moretti intended it, citing the possibility of “literature on autopilot… without necessarily sharp critical intelligences guiding every phase of it” (Parry). 

Price, Kenneth M. “Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name?” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.3 (2009): Web. 15 May 2011.

Our discussion about the difference between an editor and an archivist got me thinking about the importance, or not, of maintaining strict categories of roles and tasks. In his article, Price discusses the implications of terms such as edition, project, database, and archive and argues that these terms can both clarify and obscure collective work. This article is useful for its definitions of terms and for Price’s suggestion for a new term, arsenal, which breaks away from print culture while emphasizing inclusiveness and force.

Rogers, Helen et al. “Searching Questions: Digital Research and Victorian Culture.” Journal of Victorian Culture 13.1 (2008): 56-128.

This special issue of the Journal of Victorian Culture is devoted to considering the questions of digital research within the context of Victorian studies. The editors’ introduction points out the re-contextualization of texts that is happening with their digitization, the fact that, by formatting print documents into digital, we are forced to ask questions about the nature (and underlying assumptions) of textual and visual culture. The issue explores (as have other articles posted) the reluctance of mainstream scholarship to embrace digital scholarship, and the problems of cost, of ownership and intellectual property rights in collaborative work, of the lack of commonly agreed on protocols, rapid obsolescence, funding, and career development and peer reviewing in an environment that still favors the bound and printed text.

Schmidt, Lisa, et al. “Digital Curation Planning at Michigan State University.” Library Research and Technical Services 55.2 (2010).

This article looks at a project at Michigan State University which analyzed the vast amount of digitized information in the Humanities at that school, and attempted, using both the data obtained in this study, as well as in others (including UNESCO, the Digital Curation Centre, and the Digital Preservation Coalition), to develop a series of universal protocols and methodologies for preserving digital texts, databases, and so on. The report noted the problems posed by the sheer volume of information and data, by the variety of formats and systems used, and the rapid changes in technology. The article develops some specific methodologies for digital preservation at Michigan State (including closer ties between local, specifically trained IT staff and a central IT staff), which the authors feel can be applied more broadly throughout the Digital Humanities.

Smith, Abbey. “Preservation.” A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens   and John Unsworth. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.
This article addresses the advantages of preserving cultural resources such as the growth of an intellectual field, as well as the challenges of preservation which includes the degeneration of media. Also referred to as “persistence” by professionals in the field, Smith emphasizes the importance of preservation as it allows for long-term access of digital information.

Smith, Martha Nell. “The Human Touch Software of the Highest Order: Revisiting Editing as Interpretation.” Textual Cultures. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2:1 (2007): 1-17. Web.

Speaking of construction (implied by structure), this article advocates that the best editors follow the lesbian rule, a 17th century architectural term that aimed for challenging constructions like arches and irregular corners. This principle is both flexible and adherent to standards: “principled flexibility.” This type of editing honors diversity over normativity, Smith argues, and must be challenged to consider complications such as “authorship, production, and reception: race, class, gender, and sexuality,” since humanities computing is not neutral. She describes her involvement in the Dickinson Electronic Archives to understand how access to the secondary criticism of Emily Dickinson as a way of enforcing meanings, norms, and facts. Smith finds it necessary for new technologies to be imbued with this self-conscious humanitarian approach to diversity (of technologies, of interpretations, of people), and emphasizes the human ethical choices behind the edition or the software. She concludes with a description of technology that might begin to resolve these issues by making them transparent.

Vismann, Cornelia. “Out of File, Out of Mind.” New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. Ed. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Thomas Keenan. New York: Routledge, 2006.

This chapter addresses some of the issues inherent in filing and archiving, as the practices pertain to both the physical and digital milieus. Vismann’s main claim is that the practices of filing and archiving are generally managed in such a way as to make themselves redundant. However, Vismann also acknowledges that the more accessible a record is made (such as by keeping parallel records in different forms, or increasing the number of connections a record has to others) directly correlates to increasing tenuousness in an archive system. It’s a valid observation, and Vismann essentially asks how we are to go about archiving when the effectiveness of its practices is self-compromising. An interesting read, and helpful in formulating ways of thinking about database design principles.


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