The Ghost in the Machine: Revisiting an Old Model for the Dynamic Generation of Digital Editions

In 1998, a few months into the preparation of my electronic edition of the Old English poem Cædmon’s Hymn (O’Donnell forthcoming), I published a brief prospectus on the “editorial method” I intended to follow in my future work (O’Donnell 1998). Less a true editorial method than a proposed workflow and list of specifications, the prospectus called for the development of an interactive edition-processor by which “users will […] be able to generate mediated (‘critical’) texts on the fly by choosing the editorial approach which best suits their individual research or study needs” (O’Donnell 1998, ¶ 1). Read the rest of this entry »

Why should I write for your Wiki? Towards an economics of collaborative scholarship.

I’d like to begin today by telling you the story of how I came to write this paper. Ever since I was in high school, I have used a process called “constructive procrastination” to get things done. This system involves collecting a bunch of projects due at various times and then avoiding work on the one that is due right now by finishing something else instead. Read the rest of this entry »

O Captain! My Captain! Using Technology to Guide Readers Through an Electronic Edition

Most theoretical discussions of electronic editing attribute two main advantages to the digital medium over print: interactivity and the ability to transcend the physical limitations of the page. From a production standpoint, printed books are static, linearly organised, and physically limited. With a few expensive or unwieldy exceptions, their content is bound in a fixed, unchangeable order, and required to fit on standard-sized, two dimensional pages. Readers cannot customise the physical order in which information is presented to them, and authors are restricted in the type of material they can reproduce to that which can be presented within the physical confines of the printed page. Read the rest of this entry »

The Doomsday Machine, or, “If you build it, will they still come ten years from now?”: What Medievalists working in digital media can do to ensure the longevity of their research

It is, perhaps, the first urban myth of humanities computing: the Case of the Unreadable Doomsday Machine. In 1986, in celebration of the 900th anniversary of William the Conqueror’s original survey of his British territories, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) commissioned a mammoth 2.5 million electronic successor to the Domesday Book. Stored on two 12 inch video laser discs and containing thousands of photographs, maps, texts, and moving images, the Domesday Project was intended to provide a high-tech picture of life in late 20th century Great Britain. The project’s content was reproduced in an innovative early virtual reality environment and engineered using some of the most advanced technology of its day, including specially designed computers, software, and laser disc readers (Finney 1986). Read the rest of this entry »

Disciplinary impact and technological obsolescence in digital medieval studies

First posted December 15, 2006 http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/Research/disciplinary-impact-and-technological-obsolescence-in-digital-medieval-studies. Published in The Blackwell Companion to the Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schriebman and Ray Siemens. 2007.

In May 2004, I attended a lecture by Elizabeth Solopova at a workshop at the University of Calgary on the past and present of digital editions of medieval works1. The lecture looked at various approaches to the digitisation of medieval literary texts and discussed a representative sample of the most significant digital editions of English medieval works then available: the Wife of Bath’s Prologue from the Canterbury Tales Project (Robinson and Blake 1996), Murray McGillivray’s Book of the Duchess (McGillivray 1997), Kevin Kiernan’s Electronic Beowulf (Kiernan 1999), and the first volume of the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive (Adams et al. 2000). Solopova herself is an experienced digital scholar and the editions she was discussing had been produced by several of the most prominent digital editors then active. The result was a master class in humanities computing: an in-depth look at mark-up, imaging, navigation and interface design, and editorial practice in four exemplary editions.

Read the rest of this entry »


Custom Keyboard in Linux/X11

As an Anglo-Saxonist and philologist, I make daily use of a number of characters that are not found on the standard US computer keyboard. These include characters and accented letters from various European languages (e.g. ß, é, ä, ø), IPA symbols (e.g. ŋ, ə, etc.), Middle English ȝ, and various letters and forms used in Old English (æ, þ, ċ, ġ, ƿ, ū, ȳ, etc.).

Fortunately, it is quite easy in X-11 based Linux distributions to create both custom keyboard layouts (for typing individual characters) and custom compose sequences (for building characters from their component parts).


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