Wednesday, 26 October 2016

follow-up to week 6

This week we shifted gears to discuss digital publishing and literary labour, looking ahead to our upcoming classes on e-books, though we'll also keep some threads going from our recent set of classes on XML. Hope everyone enjoyed our guest lecture by Sarah Lubelski on literary labour! The discussion was especially good this week, and we'll develop some of those topics in upcoming classes. Sarah's slides are posted on BB (minus the sketch from the Bentley archives, due to copyright restrictions), and mine are posted there, too, and embedded below:

You'll also find two more readings mentioned in Sarah's lecture, dealing with the idea of immaterial labour, added to the recommended readings for this week.

At the beginning of class I also mentioned a New York Times article from last Fall that reported a recent slowing of e-book sales in relation to print. There were plenty of responses to this article, but one worth reading in particular is a piece in Fortune that disagrees with the NY Times article's interpretation of the sales data taken from the Association of American Publishers. A third, slightly more recent study that I also mentioned was published by Pew Research just last month, and looks at US book-reading habits and formats of choice (print and digital).

I also mentioned the recent case of a student's disappearing annotations to an e-book copy of George Orwell's Animal Farm, which resulted in a lawsuit against Amazon for revoking access to the e-book. If you found this story interesting, I suggest reading an initial CBC report on the story, as well as the position of the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the case, and PC World's story about the eventual settlement.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Blogging question #3: how we read, and why

Next week we'll be turning to a sequence of classes on e-books and related topics, which raises the  question of our own reading practices. That's a question we'll discuss in class, but let's also use the blogs to think through the question more slowly, and in relation to some of our secondary readings. It's a deceptively simple question: what do you choose to read on screen versus on paper, and mostly importantly, why?

When I say "on screen," that could mean a range of screens and formats, from dedicated e-reading devices like Kindles, to phones, to tablet computers and laptops. It could also mean different file formats, from EPUB (and other ebook formats) to .pdf to good old fashioned .txt files.

For example, when I got my first iPad a few years ago, I found it completely replaced my reading of articles and other PDF-type files in print. When I download a journal article to read it now, or when I receive a student essay, I no longer print it, but read and annotate it on the iPad. (The only exception is when I'm proofreading something like publication proofs; those things get printed, read very slowly at the kitchen table while leaning forward, and marked up in pencil or pen.) Yet oddly enough I almost never read e-books, and still buy printed books that I annotate yet can't search, the way I can search my digital annotations. Admittedly it's not the most rational system, but I think I stick to printed books because their physical inconvenience forces me to finish the ones I purchase, and not to purchase books unless I really mean to read them. Pleasure reading, usually before going to sleep, is always in print so that the light of the screen doesn't throw off my circadian rhythms and keep me from sleeping. (For what it's worth, I just began re-reading Geraldine Brooks's novel People of the Book, a fictionalized set of historical stories linked by the forensic work of a book conservationist.)

One consequence of this combination of habits, however, is that my reading results in a bifurcation of genre and platform, with articles and student writing being entirely screen-based, and long-form books being print-based. Format and genre have a long and complex relationship, of course, but in this case it's my own reading habits that have introduced a new pattern.

This blogging question is also an opportunity to think about our own reading habits in the context of various kinds of scholarship on reading. Several of our recent and upcoming required and recommended readings deal with the experience of reading, digitally and otherwise. Hayles and Kirschenbaum from last week (and parts of Striphas this week) deal with interface questions, Pierce, Erickson, and Murray and Squires deal with digital reading in broader social contexts (including childrens' and young adults' literature, in Pierce's case). Trettien, Benton, and Bornstein -- and, to a lesser extent, my "Enkindling Reciter" article -- deal with connections between typography and meaning. There are other threads to draw from these readings and others not on the syllabus. Steven Berlin Johnson's piece on commonplacing also discusses reading strategies and tactics: the specific techniques of reading that may be well or poorly supported by technologies of reading. In your own reading habits, what are the various relationships between technology and technique?

So, part of the challenge for this post is to think about and articulate your own reading practices (and strategies and tactics), but also to contextualize them in relation to scholarship on the topic. In other words, I'd like you to go beyond simply describing your own reading practices -- i.e. how we read -- and use secondary sources to provoke some reflection on the bigger question: why.

Monday, 17 October 2016

week 5 follow-up

In today's class we looked at how TEI/XML relates to interface, with our examples coming from digital scholarly editions much like the William Blake Archive, which Kirschenbaum discusses in one of our two required readings for the week.

One example is Folger Digital Texts, whose Shakespeare editions are available in readable form, as downloadable XML files, and via a prototype API which you'll find linked in the upper right of the screen. One API function that we looked at in class is the "character chart" for Hamlet, which you can see in a screenshot below. Characters in the play are listed in the leftmost column, and their appearances on stage are shown on the horizontal axis, with thick and thin red lines demarcating act and scene divisions. Within those horizontal lines, the black segments indicate lines spoken, while the grey segments indicate a character onstage but not speaking. The same is true for the green, which indicates dead characters, whether ghosts or simply characters who have died and remain on stage (like several characters at the end). What worth keeping in mind is that this chart, like all of the outputs of the different API functions, is derived from the same XML that's used to bring the reading texts to the screen.

The other digital edition we looked at is the Electronic New Variorum Shakespeare, which is described in more detail here. Like Folger Digital Texts, this project makes its source XML available with a fair amount of documentation in the form of a digital challenge to designers to use the XML to create new interfaces and applications.

We also looked at typographic markup on the first page of Genesis in the 1611 King James Bible. You can view a digital facsimile of the complete book here. If you'd like to read more about the typographic design of the book, see the David Norton reading linked under "recommended readings" for this week.

On the topic of typography as markup, we also touched briefly on the history and different meanings of quotation marks. You can read about their history at another online project I'm invovled with, called Architectures of the Book.

Not many lecture slides this week, but they're posted in the usual place on BB and embedded below:

We're down two runs in Game 3 of the Jays-Cleveland series as I post this (and Cecil's just gone in as reliever), but for what it's worth, here's some great book-spine baseball poetry for Cleveland courtesy of the Toronto Public Library:

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

blogging question #2: TEI in the wild

This week's blogging question involves some hunting and gathering: how do digitization projects, digital editions, and other forms of digital humanities research use and talk about the Text Encoding Initiative? Can you find a digital project that not only puts TEI to use, but also provides some explanation of its XML encoding strategies -- or even shares its XML for other researchers to use? The questions of what the TEI is good for, and how it functions in research, are central to the Elena Pierazzo reading this week, and the Julia Flanders reading assigned for our next class. This blogging question invites you to think about some of the same questions that they do in their articles, but also to focus on an example of a TEI project that reflects your own interests.

If you've checked out the recommended reading for our previous class, you'll have seen one example in the Comic Book Markup Language project. The example you find doesn't necessarily have to be a book-oriented project, but it should be doing something research-oriented and interesting with TEI. You could start by looking into the TEI community's online presence or conferences, and looking for projects affiliated with TEI or those that simply reference it.

Once you've found an example that interests you, tell us just a bit about what the project is, and how it puts XML to use. Does the project website give much detail about how it uses XML, and the encoding strategies it uses? Has the project gone so far as to publish articles about its methods and challenges? Finally, does the project make its code available for others to use? The answer to this last question could be more than a simple yes or no -- for example, a project might make code available only to subscribers, or, like the Folger Digital Texts project, to the public.

My guess is that projects that actually share their XML code (as distinct from talking about sharing it) will be in the minority -- or perhaps I'm just world-weary and jaded, and you'll prove me wrong! In any case, we should be able to build a collective picture of what TEI looks like in its natural habitat as of  2016. My hope is that this exercise in hunting-and-gathering, in combination with TEIbyExample and our next class on TEI and interface, will help us understand not just what XML is, but also what it's for.

Finally, if the project is somehow related to your group's encoding challenge example (as I imagine will be the case for several students, based on recent conversations about your projects) feel free to talk about the project in relation to your group's example as well -- with images, too, if that helps. When grading, we'll keep in mind that your group's submitted work for the assignment may differ from what you write about in your blog post, so feel free to use the post as a place to test out ideas that may evolve later.

week 4 follow-up

In this week's class we talked more about how XML is used in different contexts, including specific software. (We used the same lecture slides as last week; see my earlier post and the downloadable versions on BB.) The XML-specific editor that I recommend using is called oXygen, and you should be able to download a trial version. There are actually several different versions of oXygen for different levels of use, and either Author or Editor should be fine for this assignment. I also mentioned the usefulness of code-aware text editing programs, many of which are freeware. There are tons of these programs out there for all operating systems, and Lifehacker has a good (but now somewhat out-of-date) review of several. My own favorites are TextWrangler when working on a Mac, and EditPlus for PC -- though I stick to these more out of habit and familiarity than anything else. These kinds of small, lightweight text editors are great for working with a range of file types and languages, from XML to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to scripting languages like Javascript. 

In class we also looked at one of my research projects, called Visualizing Variation, which provides ways to digitally visualize different kinds of textual variation as represented in XML documents. This is work in progress, but the section on animated variants has a fair number of examples, which show how XML works in conjunction with other web technologies like CSS and Javascript. Feel free to download the linked files from this site, run them locally in your web browser, and modify and play with the contents. In our next class we'll look at the Electronic New Variorum Shakespeare interface described on the site, which I hope will illustrate what a digital interface can do with TEI-XML.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving weekend, and uses our week off to rest, catch up on reading, and work with your groups on the encoding challenge. I'll be checking the BB discussion board and answering email next week -- though I'm offline over the long weekend, and especially during tonight's Blue Jays wildcard game!