Harpers on the wonders of the telegraph and typewriter… and the rightful place of philologists.

From the conclusion of a great article in Harper’s on the Telegraph :

The immense extension of the general telegraphic system, and its common use for business and social correspondence and the dissemination of public intelligence, are far more important to the community than any of these incidental applications of the system. The telegraph system is extending much more rapidly than the railroad system, and is probably exerting even a greater influence upon the mental development of the people than the railroad is exerting in respect to the material and physical prosperity of the country. It has penetrated almost every mind with a new sense of the vastnessof distance and the value of time. It is commonly said that it has annihilated time and space—and this is true in a sense; but in a deeper sense it has magnified both, for it has been the means of expanding vastly the inadequate conceptions which we form of space and distance, and of giving a significance to the idea Read the rest of this entry »

If you ever need an argument on why it is harmful to focus on mechanics in student writing…

From George Hillocks 2005, “At Last: The Focus on Form Vs. Content in Teaching Writing,” Research in the Teaching of English 40 (2) (November 1): 238–248. doi:10.2307/40171704.


Based on a review of “500 quasi-experimental studies of writing instruction between 1963 and 1983” concentrating on those with strong research design.


GO::DH is ADHO’s first official SIG

Global Outlook :: Digital Humanities (GO::DH) is the first official Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations (ADHO).

Thanks to Neil Fraistat and Lisa Spiro at ADHO for coordinating the announcement and to Neil, Harold Short, and Ray Siemens for their early advice and, in Ray’s case especially, the help provided by INKE in setting up our extremely productive meeting in Cuba.

Paamayim Nekudotayim, or, why the double colon?

A couple of people have asked about the double colon. It’s mostly a small joke. In PHP, the double colon is a scope resolution operatorHere’s an example from the PHP manual:

class MyClass {
const CONST_VALUE = 'A constant value';

echo MyClass::CONST_VALUE;

The result would be A constant value.

So in this case, global outlook::digital humanities means “whatever the value of ‘digital humanities’ is in the scope of a ‘global outlook’.” The fact that the operator has a non-english name, even in English programming contexts, seemed pretty neat too (As the wikipedia explains: “The name “Paamayim Nekudotayim” was introduced in the Israeli-developed Zend Engine 0.5 used in PHP 3.” In Hebrew, it means “double dot twice” and is spelled פעמיים נקודתיים).

When everyone’s super… On gaming the system

For most of the last century, university researchers have been evaluated on their ability to “write something and get it into print… ‘publish or perish’” (as Logan Wilson put it as early as 1942 in The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession, one of the first print citations of the term).

As you might expect, the development of a reward system built on publication led to a general increase in number of publications.

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An Anglo-Saxon Timeline

This contains a link to an experiment in constructing a timeline of the Anglo-Saxon period using XML. It is very much a work in progress at the moment. The ultimate goal will be to have a synoptic oversight and index that will allow students to click on major events, persons, or cultural artefacts and then see how they fit in with other milestones. At the moment, the chart only includes Kings. And even then still in fairly rough fashion. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to the future: What digital editors can learn from print editorial practice.

The last decade or so has proven to be a heady time for editors of digital editions. With the maturation of the digital medium and its application to an ever increasing variety of cultural objects, digital scholars have been led to consider their theory and practice in fundamental terms (for a recent collection of essays, see Burnard, O’Keeffe, and Unsworth 2006). The questions they have asked have ranged from the nature of the editorial enterprise to issues of academic economics and politics; from problems of textual theory to questions of mise-en-page and navigation: What is an Edition? What kinds of objects can it contain? How should it be used? Must it be critical? Must it have a reading text? How should it be organised and displayed? Can intellectual responsibility be shared among editors and users? Can it be shared across generations of editors and users? While some of these questions clearly are related to earlier debates in print theory and practice, others involve aspects of the production of editions not relevant to or largely taken for granted by previous generations of print-based editors. Read the rest of this entry »

If I were “You”: How Academics Can Stop Worrying and Learn to Love “the Encyclopedia that Anyone Can Edit”

The sense that the participatory web represents a storming of the informational Bastille is shared by many scholars in our dealings with the representative that most closely touches on our professional lives—the Wikipedia, “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. University instructors (and even whole departments) commonly forbid students from citing the Wikipedia in their work (Fung 2007). Praising it on an academic listserv is still a reliable way of provoking a fight. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’s suggestion that college students should not cite encyclopedias, including his own, as a source in their work is gleefully misrepresented in academic trade magazines and blogs (e.g. Wired Campus 2006). 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 »


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