What 2015 will be made of

So now it is here, the fatal year in which my project funding will definitely end. Since my last postings, nothing has changed to the fact that I have no stable perspective for the time after (somebody should really tell the German Research Foundation that Junior Research Group Leadership is not considered an equivalent to the second book by hiring committees, at least in the fields I work in).

Still, there is more or less one year of funding left, at least for me, and I intend to make the best out of it. Continue reading “What 2015 will be made of”

L as in Long Time (though semi-long would also do for the time being)

The one thing I have been missing for months (together with having more text online, please, please, please) was the feeling of having a clear plan. The more I have to present myself with a vision, the less I feel like I have one. Being now under no duty whatsoever (except the one to get ready to teach the Vorlesung “Schriftsteller_innen und ihre Verleger_innen” from April 2014 on), I feel like *the inner plan* is moving me again – carrying me would be more like it. The problem is, the plan lacks the right conditions for its realization.

What should happen with the edition? Obviously, the part where I need to fight to get more text online seems to be on the path of resolution. After that, collation. After that, network visualization. At which point (in a year or a year and a half), the tagging should have evolved, been precised, and stabilized. Then we should able to aggregate other editions and work with quantitative tools (still fairly blurry right now, but I am confident that having a husband specialized in machine learning will pay off at some point – like this one for instance). These different steps will easily fill the 2 years left for the project, especially if I have to keep looking out for additional funding as I have been for the last 2 years.

This supposes that the whole installation survives two years, and survives over these two years. For the time being, if a hammer lands on the server for some reason (or if a train full of pure oil explodes between Friedrichstrasse and Hackescher Markt), we are basically doomed. We have no MoU that guarantees anything, just computer space. I am beginning to get really nervous about that.

You might argue that things were not different a year or so ago, but when I see the speed at which the edition will increase its volume in the months ahead, I am afraid I might not be able to have all my head as I have had until now. This is one point.

The other point that makes the archiving question complicated is the fact that the edition itself is now connected to a repository (the Boeckh platform, accessible online with password until August, then accessible online without a password – if you want the password, let me know!). What we need is archiving the XML files, the perl files, the html files of the edition as well of the repository, which are two different types of structures. And as you know, it is never really only about archiving. It is about long time accessibility, long time readability. I am at a loss for an institution that would be able to tell me: it will cost you that much to guarantee that much of data maintenance for that long a time.

Right now, it seems to me that I need a clear vision on that level in order to be able to proceed with the whole rest. If I don’t, I will remain some kind of fraud (like I feel now), building shiny castles that are actually made of sand.

Never look back?

Some nine months ago, I gave an interview (in French!) to Maud Ingarao. She was preparing a series of papers presenting German DH projects for the French public, so I had the pleasure to come after Christof Schöch and  Torsten Schaßan (excusez du peu). I had the feeling this was a little bit premature considering how foggy the whole concept of the project was. At that point, I had not the feeling that I was managering it, more that is was managering me. But the deal was to have something about a project that was right in the starting blocks.

I was afraid to have changed radically my mind on some crucial topics in the meantime and was somewhat dreading the moment when I would have to face the transcription of the interview. Well, here it is (I added a couple of hyperlinks in the interview text, linking to some relevant blog posts I wrote in between). In many ways, the questions that I considered important then are still important now, even if my answers might now be slightly different – and a few new questions have come on my radar too.

First, there is the question of the relation between paper edition and digital edition. So early in the process of getting digital as March 2011, I still saw as my primary aim to produce books, paper editions. In fact, I think that I did not envision back then how powerful markup can be to sort out larger corpora. Once I started seeing the way we could link the different subcorpora of our digital edition together, I also considered the digital edition on a completely new scale. I still am the boss of a small project. But a small project with an evolving potential to becoming a middle-sized one. (note to self: need to move on seriously on the indexing)

Second, I was baffled when I realized that I did not mention Long Time Archiving at all during the whole interview. It is true, too, that the importance of that aspect of project development only became clear to me during the TEI-conference in Würzburg in October. But then, it revealed immediately its splendor as a long-time malediction – only making me more eager to find a solution involving not only me in my pretty unstable institutional situation, but partners that would still be here when I would be long gone. And here I must say that the recent developments of the cooperation with Michael Seadle and, most of all, with Jutta Weber and the kalliope team, worked out faster than I first thought. We are getting closer to a more than satisfactory solution.

And a third thing that might be worth mentioning here: project management in DH seems to be very different in France and in Germany. So few project managers know about their own TEI schema, understand the logic of the encoding decisions made for their own project in France, while I see a lot of people working on both the technical and the let’s-name-them-philosophical issues in Germany. The two digital cultures that develop in parallel look very different. The reasons for that are probably historical, but I find it worrying when it comes to working out common projects. I already have more and more the feeling to be considered like a technician by the elder generation in my scientific community, probably the younger one will start harvesting a similar feeling soon – as for France, I guess I will pass for a decent ingénieur soon.

Again: you can find our actual project guidelines as an attachment here, probably the best way to know where we stand!