Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tablets Apps, or the future of the Scholarly Editons?

I was yesterday at a very interesting symposium entitled The Future Perfect of the Book organised by the Institute of English Studies. It has been an interesting mixture of people and of presentations. One in particular I would like to discuss (i.e. Elaine Treharne's keynote adress The Numbered days of the Page), but not now, in another post.
In this one I would like to report about the presentation I gave with Miguel Vieira and that builds on the research conducted by Patricia Searl for her MA dissertation on Digital Humanities at Kings' College London. Here is the abstract we submitted to the conference organisers:
The last 20 years have seen a rise of scholarly digital editions, which offer new, unexplored dimensions and depth to textual scholarship. The new possibilities opened up by the pioneering work of Peter Robinson and Jerome McGann’s charmed editors to the point that at the beginning of the millennium they seemed ready to switch to the digital medium. However, this promised switch did not happen and while many universities have adopted eBooks for course readings, digital textual scholarship seems not to have reached classrooms at all. In fact, an unpublished survey of twenty-two undergraduate syllabi in the US and UK has revealed that not one class had a single web edition as an assigned reading material. On the other hand, in commercial publishing the last couple of years have seen a boom in eBooks and eReaders. It is true though that eBooks look like very poor relatives of digital scholarly editions: in most cases they include the raw text with no additional features other than string searching. As such, eBooks look somewhat regressive, representing an evolution of the codex but not the revolution of the way we read texts which was promised by the advent of computers. Usability studies have demonstrated that reading on tablets is more enjoyable than reading on the screen of computers and, in some cases, more than reading print. But this is for general reading: does it also apply to highly sophisticated digital scholarly editions? Is the sophistication of such editions, as we have conceived them so far, the enemy of accessibility and user-friendliness? Are tablet apps a possible way to enhance the appeal of Digital Scholarly Editions? These are some of the questions that this paper will address.
and here are the slides we have used for the presentation

Comments? The presentation was very well received and we got plenty of nice feedback.
Early this week Miguel and I rehearsed the presentation within the DDH internal seminar and Raffaele Viglianti wrote a very nice summary of this event.

I will get back shortly on this topic, so stay tuned.


  1. re Bible+ with no editor mentioned: it reminds me of a hilarious email exchange between a colleague and a Bible software publisher that I have been shown years ago. My colleague, a Bible studies scholar, wished to know which version of the Vulgate text was featured on some Bible research, and wrote to the publisher. Ensued a crazy dialogue, where it was pretty clear that her contact didn't understand even the beginning of her concerns about the version / edition of the Vulgate. The final answer was that it was "the version written by Saint Jerome".

  2. LOL!! It is slightly better than if they answered "the version written by God", still not bad! Editors of the World, Unite!