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Bibliography on Digital Editing and Digital Archives

This page presents an annotated bibliography of scholarship related to digital editing and digital archives. This evolving resource was first prepared by K. Anagnostou, a student in the UNF English MA program, in the summer of 2020. 

Douglas, Jennifer. “Toward More Honest Description.” The American Archivist, vol. 79, no. 1, 2016, pp. 26–55.

This is a revised chapter from the author’s doctoral dissertation, “Archiving Authors: Rethinking the Analysis and Representation of Personal Archives” (University of Toronto, 2013). Douglas critically surveys eight Canadian and American writers’ archives and interviews thirteen Canadian librarians/archivists with expert knowledge of writers’ archives and determines that not enough information is given in the descriptive finding aids to accurately represent the archivist’s and other interested parties’ influence over the final shape of the fonds. Douglas suggests that new or more strictly enforced elements, addendums, collaborative platforms, and blogs can be used to enhance or supplement finding aids and forwardly acknowledge the constructedness of the archival fonds. Otherwise, Douglas states, archivists do a “disservice” to the archive, its researchers, and the archival profession at large. Douglas’s assertions could support finding aids of digital archives as well, and perhaps other elements such as metadata tags and keywords.

---. “Getting personal: Personal archives in archival programs and curricula.” Education for Information, vol. 33, 2017, pp. 89–105.

Douglas, professor at University of British Columbia (UBC) surveys graduate programs in the United States and Canada via program websites and course catalog descriptions and measures (using Society of American Archives and Association of Canadian Archivists education guidelines) whether personal archives are a prominent focus. An appendix of graduate programs is included (97). Douglas defines personal archives and provides anecdotal evidence of her Personal Archives course, offered at UBC in 2013-2014. Douglas concludes that personal archives are not well-represented in archival studies graduate programs despite the benefits it offers to the profession: increased awareness of 1) the biases of archival work, especially in terms of arranging a fonds and 2) the importance of empathy and relationship building as part of the archival process. Digital archivists who learn from this article will consider including personal papers where relevant or apply the compassionate approach invoked by Douglas to the treatment of all records in the archive.

Eggert, Paul. “The reader-oriented scholarly edition.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, vol. 31, no. 4, 2016, pp. 797-810.

Eggert introduces some of the main twentieth-century approaches to scholarly editing to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and how they could apply (or not) to digital scholarly editions. He concludes that, despite valiant and comprehensive efforts toward both objectivity and accountability, complexly annotated print editions have very low readership because 1) they are expensive 2) they cannot fully meet readers’ needs and expectations and 3) readers do not know how to use them. In contrast, digital scholarly editions have the potential to allow for layers of annotation, historical context, collaboration, and editing without sacrificing accessibility or integrity.

Gailey, Amanda. “Editing in the Age of Automation.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 54, no. 3, 2012, pp. 340-356.

Gailey, Associate Professor at University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL), explores the pros and cons of two main approaches to digital archive curation and editing: automation and authenticity. Automation generally refers to very large repositories of text data with little or non-contextual metadata that is suited for distant reading and other high-level modeling and analysis. Because automated repositories are often created by machines and algorithms, these collections lack contextual metadata which limits the usefulness of analysis for some scholars. Authenticity generally refers to the guiding principal of curation employed by narrowly focused archives such as those that explore the works of a single author. Gailey suggests extended encoding methodologies that take both guiding principles into consideration as a solution and provides examples of thesis-driven archives, which need depth and breadth in their content, that would benefit from a compromised approach.

---. "Teaching Attentive Reading and Motivated Writing through Digital Editing." The CEA Critic vol. 76, no. 2, 2014, pp. 191-199.

Gailey defends digital textual editing as an effective tool for literary studies. She draws on prior experience, including teaching TEI-XML and its related markup languages and style sheets to students in a course at UNL (Digital Archives and Editions). Gailey asserts that digital textual editing allows students to 1) practice close reading skills that can more easily be sidestepped in traditional term papers 2) feel motivated and empowered to contribute knowledge from their unique perspectives and 3) become experts on and speak confidently about a text in a relatively short period of time. Many of the articles mentioned in this bibliography are highly technical in their arguments about the usefulness of digital textual editing approaches and methodologies. In contrast, Gailey’s anecdotal article offers an accessible invitation for further study. It also speaks to the collaborative nature of digital archives and her suggestions can be extrapolated to community benefits of significant archival involvement.

Greetham, David. "A History of Textual Scholarship." The Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship, edited by Neil Fraistat and Julia Flanders, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 17–41.

This introductory chapter summarizes the history of textual scholarship from prehistory to present. Greetham mentions various methods of editing that arose throughout the millennia, such as Peisistratus’s compilation of Homer, Lycurgus’s curation of plays for the Athenian public archives, Alexandrian librarianship, the many iterations of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin bibles, the Italian humanist approach, and the advent of national libraries. Most relevant to this bibliography, Greetham posits that the transition from print to digital is as important a shift as "roll to codex" (39), leaving the reader to wonder what that means for the future of textual scholarship. Greetham does not attempt to predict the trajectory of the field other than to confirm that basic principles- “the role of the author, the function of the audience, the variance in texts”- will remain the same (40).

McCarty, Willard. “Getting There From Here. Remembering the Future of Digital Humanities.” Literary and Linguistic Computing, vol. 29, no. 3, 2014, pp. 283–306.

This is a modified version of Willard McCarty’s 2013 Roberto Busa Prize lecture. McCarty, author of Humanities Computing (2005), passionately, and often humorously, examines his personal journey that led him to the field of digital humanities. Aside from the humanities, McCarty’s background includes physics, mathematics, and years spent as a computer programmer which informs his earnest interest in digital humanities from a scientific and technological perspective. His lecture centers around this question: why do humanists fear computers? McCarty gives examples of attitudes towards technology ranging from paranoid to romantic proving that humanists are not alone in their feelings; yet, McCarty urges, we must ask why humanities have not prospered from technology as much as other fields? His solution is to lean into the fear and uncertainty, because in that space we truly know our humanity.

McGann, Jerome. "Coda: Why Digital Textual Scholarship Matters, or Philology in a New Key." The Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship, edited by Neil Fraistat and Julia Flanders, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 274–288.

In this article, McGann attempts to answer the question in its title by briefly defining philology literally (in the context of ancient practitioners) and practically (extending up to World War II) and then quickly shifts his focus to the contemporary study of digital texts. McGann supports his arguments primarily by referencing theorist N. Katherine Hayles, specifically her quasi-autobiographical Writing Machines (2002). Like Hayles, McGann asserts a need for a new paradigm for studying and creating scholarly digital texts. McGann uses J. C. C. Mays’s The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Poetical Works (interestingly, a print edition), digital archives like The Rosetti Archive, and consortiums such as NINES (The Networked Infrastructure of Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship) to illustrate what this new paradigm should accomplish (i.e. complexity, longevity, and collaboration). He warns that digital archives must be continually maintained and, though collaborative in nature, still lack the “institutional infrastructure” of printed scholarly texts, but McGann does not offer explicit solutions to these shortcomings.

Momaday, N. Scott. “The Native Voice in American Literature”. The Man Made of Words: Essays, Passages, Stories, 1998, pp. 13-20.

Native American storyteller N. Scott Momaday reflects on the history of American literature and conceives its origin as the moment when the first of our prehistoric ancestors transferred a “wonderful image in his mind’s eye to a wall or rock” (13). Oral tradition followed these artistic expressions and is the foundation of modern language; however, Momaday argues that oral tradition is considered separate from literature because 1) we cannot fully understand what it means to live in an oral tradition 2) the history of oral tradition is vast and intimidating and 3) few experts exist in already inadequate research facilities and limited fields of study. Momaday argues that writing has resulted in a form of expression which neglects silence and uses words carelessly. The need for memory and the context of situation are eliminated via the written word’s relative permanence. However, writing has become inescapable; even Momaday resorts to transcribing songs and prayers to explain their significance. Momaday asks, “What was lost or gained in the process of translation and transcription?” (20). This article does not directly address digital archives, but it provides a foundation for critical questions of cultural heritage preservation that archivists need to consider when choosing what and how to archive.

Moss, Michael, David Thomas, and Tim Gollins. “The Reconfiguration of the Archive as Data to Be Mined.” Archivaria: The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists, vol. 86, 2016, pp. 118-151.

The authors—whose combined experience is in information and archives management in the academic and public sectors—describe the positive and negative effects of archives as shifting from being repositories of printed and digitized materials to being immense warehouses of data, including images and sound. Objects on the internet are linked by data in a giant web that requires processing information as whole— a method called “distant reading” by Franco Moretti— rather than processing individual texts (128). Social media particularly collapses concepts of time and order because posts are real-time, user-created and iterative responses to events. Single archivists and historians can no longer process entire corpora by themselves; they need the help of other professionals, specifically information technologists. The collaborative nature of modern technology means archivists can, and should, consult with end-users (especially those who belong to historically marginalized groups) about what to archive and how to catalogue it. Unfortunately, massive amounts of data are held by private companies and the data available to the public is often disorderly and the authors warn that online catalogues and search engines may seem inclusive, objective, or absolute, but they are subject to bias and false linkages.

Kline, Mary-Jo, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. "Introduction: What Is Documentary Editing Where Did It Come From?" A Guide to Documentary Editing, edited by Mary-Jo Kline and Susan Holbrook Perdue, 3rd edition, E-book, Association for Documentary Editing, 2013.

The authors introduce documentary editing and its American history and evolution. They draw special attention to the theoretical distinction between historical and literary editing, both critical and documentary, and how the two have adhered to sometimes conflicting practices. These practices were often based on differing assumptions of what an intended audience wanted and needed. However, the recent evolution of American editing has resulted in a scholarly practice that more readily embraces collaboration and “editorial pluralism” without the fixed distinctions from prior generations. Technology continues to dissolve existing theoretical boundaries and obstacles (e.g. financial barriers) and create its own problems. Though editing practices are quickly changing form, the authors argue that the standards should not change; modern digital editors have a responsibility to maintain rigorous and respectable methodologies, especially in a world where many editions are self-published without requiring multiple peer reviews.

Oldman, Dominic, Martin Doerr, and Stefan Gradmann. “Zen and the Art of Linked Data:  New Strategies for a Semantic Web of Humanist Knowledge.” A New Companion to Digital Humanities, First Edition, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2016.

The authors discuss the construction of the World Wide Web—specifically Linked Data (which enables connections) and the Semantic Web (which enables context) -- its limitations related to humanities scholarship, and possible solutions for dissolving those limitations. The authors believe that technologists, like software developers, and humanists need to not only collaborate on projects for creating a meaningful Web, but deeply embed one another’s needs into the solutions. When data is viewed only as individual, separate units that can be measured and used to make connections and predictions, meaning is diluted or lost at the macro level. Humanities scholars need context, including contributions from other scholars and multiple perspectives. For example, humanists need to model patterns of history as opposed to patterns within historical data (258). Essentially, data needs to be wrapped with context in a system that allows for somewhat fluid connections that can be read (or analyzed) closely and from a distance. The authors mention the development of the TEI P5 standards (which include XML tags for person, place, dates, etc.) as a step in the right direction towards enmeshing data and meaning in digital repositories. The article concludes that technologists and computer scientists dominate discussions regarding the cyberinfrastructure of the Web and that humanists lack skills to assert themselves into the conversation; however, the authors do not offer any explicit solutions to the lack of technology training within the humanities.

Pierazzo, Elena. “What’s on the Page? Objectivity and Interpretation in Scholarly Editing.” Digital Scholarly Editing: Theories, Models and Methods, Routledge, 2016.

In this chapter, Pierazzo criticizes objectivity as an editorial aspiration and suggests accountability take its place. Objectivity is impossible to achieve due to the nature of editing as an interpretive act. Even if an editor were to successfully remain objective in their role, their work is still based on some historic editorial interpretation, including those things we take for granted, such as the advent of punctuation and paragraphs. Pierazzo further argues that digital representations of a text (i.e. a photograph or scanned image) are at least one step removed from the original, so any transcription of digital versions is already predicated on subjective choices made by the person who created the digital copy. Accountability, on the other hand, embraces the interpretive nature of editing and either 1) seeks to represent the original text, but with ample commentary or encoding regarding uncertainty or 2) purposefully flouts truthful representation and alters the text to support a particular thesis (such as color coding text according to authorial identity).

Price, Kenneth M. “The Walt Whitman Archive and the Prospects for Social Editing.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, vol. 31, no. 4, 2016, pp. 866-874.

Kenneth Price, professor of American Literature at University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL), explores the potentials and pitfalls of social editing, a term used to describe the contribution to a digital repository by (generally non-scholar) members of the local, and sometimes global, community. Advantages to the archive include distributing the labor required to digitize, edit, and annotate vast quantities of material, translating archived documents into multiple languages and growing a repository of annotations that reveal shifting cultural values and perceptions. Advantages to the contributing civilians include a deeper understanding of the material, interaction with other enthusiasts, and possible scholarly thesis development. Pitfalls to the archive include possible controversy between contributors, incorrect or untruthful editions or annotations, and costly management endeavors. Price asserts that social editing holds promise as an effective way for producing digital archives if the effort to manage contributors does not impede the goals of the archive and there are effective procedures for vetting contributions.

Ryan, Ellen M. “Identifying Culturally Sensitive American Indian Material in a Non-tribal Institution.” www2.archivists.org/groups/committee-on-ethics-and-professional-conduct/case-studies-in-archival-ethics. Accessed 11 July 2020.

Ryan, Head of Special Collections and Archives at Eli M. Oboler Library at Idaho State University, submitted this case study to the Society of American Archivists for their “Case Studies in Archival Ethics” series in September 2014. Ryan’s archival team discovered culturally sensitive photographs of American Indian tribes performing dance and funerary rituals. Ryan consulted with leadership of local tribes. The tribe members recognized the sacred value of the images (which were likely taken without permission) and requested that the digital and physical copies of the photos be protected by limited access. Ryan acknowledges keeping cultural material out of public view is a controversial subject, but she argues that consulting local tribes was the ethical choice and that the opportunity for community and relationship building was important.