A musical, a serious discussion, an information overload and a yiipee!

Yesterday was the day when we had our first digital edition meeting in a long time.  Everyone noticed the fact that is was overdue: it lasted almost three hours. I usually try to avoid that kind of length, but there was too much to discuss. We started preparing our first big official presentation of the edition (or launch if you want); we discussed the pdf issue; we did some general brainstorming on a few transcriptions that were not to easy to decipher, and Alex explained to us (in a first attempt to reach the deeper regions of our brains) how an eXist database works. In the aftermath, e.g. today, I also discussed with him what I wanted to try and implement for the Boeckh edition and what should be the next big steps for the digital edition in general. Busy, busy…

The presentation of the edition will have four parts: in the first 10 minutes, I will present the general concept of the edition (the 2 columns, the 6 views, and how this reflects the way our cooperation partners are involved in the project). Then, Sabine  and some students from our last class will present the correspondence corpora, showing what kind of novel information can be retrieved from our edition. The third part will consist in Anna and Johanna presenting the work manuscripts. And in the end, when (hopefully) everyone is wondering how this is all working, Alex will explain a few technicalities. Since we will have many speakers, everyone of us will have to make an effort to speak briefly. Most of all, we will have to rehearse the relay-passing-part of the presentation, so that we don’t lose too much time and attention of the audience in between the speakers. I always thought this is what preparing a musical is like (something I haven’t completely given up on doing one day). We will see in a few weeks if we are so good at dancing, singing, smiling, looking totally relaxed and enjoying the fun…

On the pdf side, I was very eager to hear what arguments there would be for and against the idea of making pdfs of our digital edition available per mouse click. Alex’ main argument was derived from the open-access idea of the edition itself: since it is realized with public funding, we could consider that we owe it to the taxpayer to make a version available that allows a smoother readability. I still do not have a clear idea of which of our 5 views (obviously, the scans are not concerned) should be turned into a pdf (maybe one of them, maybe either one of them, maybe all, maybe a combination,…). I admit that it is a tempting idea, but it would involve a huge time investment for Alex. For that reason, I have postponed this part to later in the winter. We should first work on the Boeckh corpus to see how we can harmonize the metadata we have from the various Berlin archives in various formats and merge them with the rest of our Boeckh data. Granularity, my friend, we will have a serious discussion in a few weeks, be prepared!

I could finish this post by telling you about the eXist database and why there are stylesheets and scripts involved and why the XSLT stylesheet is called a stylesheet although it is more a script and why it is that some browsers show our Geminationsstriche in an almost decent way while some others show some absurd dash in the middle of nowhere. But the information overload during that part of the meeting prevented me from actually sorting out the explanations while I heard them, so I don’t think it would be a great help if I tried to explain that. Instead, let me tell you that Alex suggested that we add some kind of timeline within the diplomatical transcription of Boeckh’s Encyklopädie, which would allow to display the different text versions in an efficient, intuitive and simple way. To this idea, I have only one thing to say: Yiipee!


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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