The next step

In one of my favorite movies (“Ma saison préférée”, by André Téchiné, with Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil), one of the characters says at some point: The problem is not the wrong step, it is the step after. I find this assertion to be true in all kinds of circumstances. The ability to think the next step, to implement the right corrective at the right time and in the right place, is probably just as important as the ability to achieve and finish something.

I knew very well that the digital edition was everything but finished when I posted the link, but the fact that it is now officially online has allowed my priorities to finally restructurate. I am not obsessed with line breaks any more (what a relief!), but more able to think in terms of what would be the most coherent next step now. I see four main aspects:

* data enrichment: I am not sure at this point whether it would be more clever to first “finish” a corpus or to first add contents to categories of corpora that are, for the time being, empty. We will try to work on both in parallel. Since this part of the work can be divided in small and coherent work packages, I think it will be doable.

* looks: finally people have started to dare tell me what they think of the looks of the page. The fact that we did a good job does not mean that the result looks good. It is more complicated to change things there though.  I don’t want to lose the intuitive and economical general looks on the one hand, the reading comfort on the other hand. But I don’t have 5000 Euro to pay a professional to do the job to realize something in the style of the Van Gogh Letters (a site that still has too many categories in my eyes). I really wish there were something like wordpress for digital editions…

* hosting and data architecture: for the time being, the scans are all stocked on our server at the University. This means that we don’t have yet the option of offering different resolutions for the pictures. It also means that our whole data architecture is a temporary one. We really need to move on on the different workflows there! How will we even bring everything together: the letters, the work manuscripts and their comparison with the first print, the data concerning the persons, the connection to the archives, the connection to the documents (especially the Boeckh documents) for which we only have metadata at the moment (but for that matter, a lot of them!)?

* search engine: what we have online now corresponds to the structure of our data. You can search the index or you can search the text (full-text) including or not including the metadata. Although I know what I would like to reach in the end, I am still not able to formulate it in a way that the people in my team are able to understand it and implement it in the search engine. Especially my idea that, in order to be able to analyze phenomenons of genesis and reception of a literary or scholarly event, you have to isolate a particular period of time (say, 2 months) in the corpus and combine it with some keywords, seems to be completely over the moon.

So the next step for the time being is still to think about the next step. And to conclude that my favorite season is definitely not spring (especially when you get snowfalls on Easter day), but more fall – and in the fall, we will be, hopefully, three or four steps ahead…

Anne Baillot

I studied German Studies and Philosophy in Paris where I got my PhD in 2002. I then moved to Berlin, where I have been living & doing research ever since. My areas of specialty include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history. I am currently working at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin as an expert in digital technologies for the humanities.

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