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Posts tagged with: EMDA

Dispatch from the West Coast, or EMDA: A Retrospective

A few weeks after returning from the Early Modern Digital Agendas Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I feel like I’ve settled back into my routine: get up, bus to campus, work on dissertation prospectus, take a walk at lunch, work some more. Repeat. What returning to this normal process has really underscored for me is how very different the EMDA experience was from my normal professional life.

As a doctoral student, I spend my time doing doctoral student things: reading, writing, emailing (my god, the emailing), applying to conferences, grants, etc. As a research assistant at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria, I spend my hours emailing, building digital projects, writing (different) grants, writing (different) conference papers, etc. As President of the English Graduate Students Society at UVic, I keep track of TAs, help to plan social events, keep our department as honest as possible, and so on. At EMDA, I sat in a seminar room for eight hours a day, five days a week, discussing digital tools, early modern studies, cyberinfrastructure, graduate training, and Shakespeare. Lots of Shakespeare.  My daily routine in DC was metro, Folger, walk to Penn for lunch, Folger, metro home (or drinks :). All of which is to say that my experience at the Folger was a strangely wonderful alternate reality close to what I assumed (as a freshman in college) graduate school and the professoriate would be like. That’s not to insult my grad experience, which has been more or less great, but to underscore the very strange pocket universe Folger institutes seem to operate in. So it’s taken awhile to get my thoughts together

Those thoughts are, in list form:

Surprise I was even there.

  • Gratitude to the Folger and Institute crew for putting the whole thing on.
  • Perpetual recognition of how intelligent and knowledgeable literally everyone in the room was about something we were discussing.
  • A newfound focus on the media archaeology of early modern studies.
  • An interest in how linguistics (especially corpus linguistics) can prompt and/or support ‘traditional’ literary & cultural analysis.
  • The extent to which technological infrastructure (from the Renaissance to present) influences how we think of our disciplinary concerns.
  • An appreciate at the sheer number of article ideas, dissertation components, disciplinary concerns, and large scale project ideas that emerged from EMDA.
  • Mild surprise at how much professional networking, project genesis, and the like take place over alcohol. While this doesn’t bother me per se, the unofficial importance it seems to have in career development gives me pause.

I mean, I am a doctoral student just entering my third year. To be in a room with folks like Joe Loewenstein, Lynne Magnusson, Jacqueline Wernimont, Brett Hirsch and pretty much every other participant was humbling. I’m not being falsely modest when I say that these folks were regularly throwing out authors, plays, poetry, and entire cultural movements in literature that I had never even heard of. At the same time, I (think) I brought a rather more hardcore digital humanities and media studies vantage point to the group. Next to that, folks like Dan Shore  often gave me, and the group, pause by dropping what I liked to think of as “philosophy bombs” into the middle of our discussions. Jacob Heil seemed to always base his contributions in his very real, and current, large digital project management experience. I could write a sentence like that for every person at EMDA (and said most of them out loud during our final night of banqueting & drinks until I wandered home with friends and partner along the Mall).

Overall, the most valuable takeaway for me personally is a new sense of community, one centred on a group of early modern digital humanities all explicitly concerned with asking the types of question and pursuing the types of projects I’ve come to think of as ‘my type’ of research. Which is of course nonsense, since it is obviously *our* type of research. And that’s no small thing.

Dispatches from Capitol Hill: #4, or What is transcription, really?

Evolving from our discussions of XML and TEI on Monday, during Tuesday’s session the EMDA Institute we moved to a consideration of what it would actually mean to be in charge of projects geared towards the production of such XML documents. Using Heather Wolfe’s idea of an “Early Modern Manuscripts Online” (and the grant to fund the production of such a beast), our group moved through a sort of thought experiment on what a project would entail, from the ground up. In other words, what does it take to produce a useful (and, possibly, accurate) model of early modern manuscripts? What needs to happen behind the scenes to ensure that such a resource is usable by scholars, students, and the like?

To ground our inquiry, we were presented with a group of manuscripts, collected by Heather Wolfe, to transcribe and begin encoding using any schema or tagset we felt appropriate–not following TEI standards, in other words. Drawing from this group of digitized manuscripts in Luna, the Folger’s digital workspace, Scott Trudell and I began to work with a single page of a single document:

Folger Manuscript in Luna; V.a.281, 1v || 2r

Folger Manuscript in Luna; V.a.281, 1v || 2r

(See the document in Luna here)

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Dispatches from Capitol Hill: #3, or XML and TEI are Scary

Here at Early Modern Digital Agendas, we are chugging right along. This week we switched gears rather dramatically; for the last few days of last week, we focused almost exclusively on Early English Books Online (EEBO), issues of facsimile, large corpora analysis, and the building of large collections of early modern materials. And although my title is slightly tongue in cheek, I really do get intimidated by TEI XML; despite a long association with it and using it in several contexts, I’ve never had a dedicated project of my own during which I dealt with XML day in-day out.

Today, Alan Galey, Julia Flanders, and Heather Wolfe joined our hardy band for a discussion on practical editing, diplomatic transcriptions, and the creation of XML encodings of early modern texts in accordance with TEI guidelines. As our group is fairly diverse, some individuals were quite well versed in editorial theory; others felt at home with TEI, while others had very certain theoretical engagements with both groups of practice. This in itself was interesting, since it seemed that no single one of us felt completely at ease engaging with early modern texts, textual editing, critical theory, and the technological methodologies of TEI conformant XML. Continue Reading

Dispatches from Capitol Hill: #2, or EEBO and the Infinite Weirdness

Today at #emda13 (as Early Modern Digital Agendas has become, bowing to the necessity of a convenient hashtag), we discussed Early English Books Online and the English Short Title Catalogue with Ian Gadd (of Bath Spa University) and Deborah Leslie (Folger Shakespeare Library). Although our discussion began with the English Short Title Catalogue and EEBO as a jumping off point, we quickly went down the rabbit hole of both EEBO history and the very odd corners both scholarly resources contains.

EEBO and the ESTC both have complex and tangles histories (and sometimes an entangled history as well) that was so complex I’m sure I missed half of it. Perhaps most intriguingly, when we consult about the seemingly very digital ESTC, we are actually consulting a resource that began with Edward Arber’s 1875 Transcript of the Register of the Company of Stationers of London; this project morphed into the Catalogue of Books in the Library of the British Museum (1884), which eventually turned into Pollard & Redgrave’s Short Title Catalogue printed in 1926–since revised later in the 20th century. This STC was followed when University Microfilm International (UMI) began photographing early modern texts in the 1930s and 1940s, in the face of World War II. Eventually, the STC morphed in to the ESTC (which originally stood for *Eighteenth* century STC) in the late 1980s. Continue Reading

Dispatches from Capitol Hill: #1

As I posted above, I’m here in hot & muggy Washington DC for Early Modern Digital Agendas, an NEH Institute for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities. Writing on lunch break on the second day, reflecting on the first.

The initial hours of the institute can fairly be summed up with one word: orientation. As a new reader at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I had to have myself photographed, fill out forms, learn how to use the (seemingly innocuous but quite complicated) combination locks in the cloak room, learn my way around the maze of multiple levels, how to request books, etc and so on.

The group–a list of whom you can find here–started off with a consideration of Turner-prize winning artist Grayson Perry’s multimodal art project The Vanity of Small Differences. Continue Reading