Grapes and Cheese

Monday is, if not *the* big day, at least *a* big day. We will be doing our first presentation of the digital edition as a group. Although a home game, this is pretty exciting and I have been completely absorbed by the preparation since I came back from my vacation. In fact, it looks like I will be so until Monday, 6 PM, beginning of the presentation.

Of course, many things have not reached the completion I had hoped for on this big day. Not only do we have annoyingly few texts online: many of them do also not conform the latest developments of our editorial guidelines. The web interface is o.k., but the colors and image/text blocks still a bit clunky. The mix of German and English in some of the automatically generated popups has not been harmonized. I could go on and on like that. Even considering that none of the encodings could have been absolutely perfect, many things could have been more perfect.

I have been trying to hire someone for a whole year now, mainly to get some help on the encoding part, which would enable me to concentrate more on the  conceptual part. Of course I need to encode by myself, but it should not take too much time on the schedule of the person who is suppose to lead and coordinate (this being said not out of  laziness, but more of pragmatism). As a result (and this has been going on for a while), I have been very unsatisfied by the disproportion between the edited text mass and the conception of the whole. The conceptual part has moved on a great deal: I know perfectly well which are the directions we will be going for the next (and last) 2 and half years of the project. But not being able to realize this vision on the scale of a significant text quantity is somewhat frustrating. The gap between what I envision and what is being done is too big.

Looking back at what I was saying a year ago, I should actually be happy to have been able to move on with such impetus on  the conceptual part, and feel satisfied to be so cool on that topic now. I remember then – a year ago, when I first started blogging! – that I was restlessly trying to move on conceptually one step faster than the rest of the team. And  I did not have the feeling that I was managing that at all. Hiring Alex was the first big improvement, encoding 39 letters over the winter was the second one. Big encounters, the beginning of concrete cooperations with our main partners, helped me move one big and undoable seven-league-boots step ahead.

If I sum up what I have already transcribed that is waiting to be encoded, I come close to 500 to 1000 pages. Provided that I find the right funding and the right person (both of which I have been  failing at for a year), I certainly have enough material to keep him/her busy for a while – a while being in that case a couple of years. And honestly, come to think about it, I really have to find someone and a funding. But I am fed upwith filling smaller or bigger grant applications, for this or that funding or stipend, or trying to find someone with whom to apply for a funding (of course people don’t want to do that kind of things, it is too uncertain). There are still not enough digital humanists active in literary sciences. And too little flexible funding for that kind of tasks.

Second lesson: we are, up to the end of the project funding, full. If someone comes with a small corpus that fits and this person is willing to publish it in our edition, fine. But we cannot allow ourselves to add any single corpus to what is already planned, because we simply will not manage.

Third lesson: there will be (if everything goes according to plan) grapes and cheese mini-skewers after the presentation on Monday. A little sweet, a little salty, a little sweet, a little salty – a digital edition’s life on a toothpick.


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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