Brand new (virtual) worlds

I started sorting my (currently 5) professional construction sites today in order to rationalize my work hours. I will be active in WP3 of the PARTHENOS project, also in WP2 of the IPERION project; I am managing editor of the Journal of the TEI, should get more involved in the editorial process of the DH Commons Journal (which I have had too little time for in the past years) and will be developing a model for a datajournal in the humanities. Also, I will keep developing my digital edition into a wider platform.

Getting to sort all these trains  I am hopping on at different stages of development, I must say that the most difficult part is not even yet to organize the working hours of each day, but to understand how the Virtual Research Environments and Work platforms used by the projects are actually working. The first schock came when I uncovered the backend of the JTEI. I had never had any opportunity to work with lodel before and was a bit discouraged by the dryness of the interface. Compared to the other interfaces though, I came to the conclusion that lodel might be a bit rough at first sight, but has the advantage of being straightforward. Things got more complicated today when I registered in Basecamp and D4science. All the self-confidence I had at 10 A.M. when I was shown how to update my profile on the intranet of my new institute vanished at 11 A.M. when I realized I was unable to find out who was registered in the same sub-project as me in Basecamp. So when Arno Bosse e-mailed a few hours later that the intranet of the COST Action “Reassembling the Republic of Letters” was not used enough and we would switch to yet another interface (in this case, slack), I had already reached the point where even twitter was too much for me.

Beyond the question of the usability of virtual research environments, I can’t see that any of that will help me rationalize the archiving process of my different work areas. It feels as if it all comes down to opening google drive folders or dropbox folders at some point (both of which are, in my case, full or as good as). These two modes of archiving don’t seem to me to address the broadness of the archival desiderata anyway, and neither do the virtual research environment. This concerns obviously the quantity of data. I have already received so many pdfs (documentation, technical annexes, deliverables, timescales,…) concerning both European projects that I have no idea where and how I could archive them in  way that makes sense for me (since the VRE mainly offers, as far as I can see, a structure for a exchange of information and not all of it is equally relevant for me). What is more, as I  can see the complexity of exchanging a relay (in the case of the JTEI), I of course think of my other work packages as something someone might take over at some point too. This means making all the above mentioned documents available, but also  explanations on the whole work process – a meta discourse on an already very, very meta discourse.

My conclusion of this first day of work as an infrastructure person is that I will have to start with a good cleaning and re-organizing. And my guess is this will turn out to be a permanent state of mind…


Cite this article as: Anne Baillot, "Brand new (virtual) worlds," in Digital Intellectuals, 08/02/2016,

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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