Wednesday 21 September 2011

Digital Editing

Working on a revamp of the MA in Digital Humanities at King's I have started to think about creating a new module where I can teach something I care about and I am good at: Digital Editing.

I spent a bit of time browsing Lisa Spiro's Zotero Group (terrific resource, if you ask me!) and I have realised that none of the syllabi listed there speak about digital editing, there are a lot of them that cover XML and the TEI, but none explicitly address the issue of editing digitally, which is a bit weird, considering the number of articles and papers at conferences that discuss it. I think the reason is that it is considered a topic that is a bit too advanced for an MA programme (which is a bit weird as I studied editing during my BA back in Italy... )

The other possibility is that it might be considered too connected to a "traditional" humanities discipline more than to DH, namely literature (English, German, Italian...) or History, or Philosophy, or... which is true in a sense, but editing is also a trans-disciplinary methodology. When it comes to digital, even more so. There are in fact a set of competencies and methods that can be applied across the board, namely:

  • data modelling
  • text encoding
  • text analysis
  • imaging
  • web design
All of which, of course, in addition to the traditional competencies that are required to do such a job, such us:

  • understanding of what a primary source is and how it works
  • understanding of the text one has to edit
  • understanding of the circumstance in which the text was produces
  • understanding of which circumstances the text has circulated and has arrived to us
  • the use of such understandings in the act of editing
Is there here a scope for an interdisciplinary module for our MA in Digital Humanities? This is  what I'm trying to find out. Any suggestion?


  1. We certainly need to present students with a holistic approach to editing, without considering the technologies involved as watertight. Grouping this into a single module might indeed help MA students.
    The pity is that often, the "traditional" Humanities competency of editing is not properly taught to Historians. This lack of understanding what editing per se is might explain why some DH professionals are a bit unfamiliar with critically editing.

  2. Thanks Marjorie for being the FIRST PERSON EVER that commented on my blog.

    You are right about Historian not being taught how to edit (not to mention historian of science or historian of philosophy or many other people that have to deal with ancient documents).

    It seems that only literary students are trained (are they? I can't find anything of the kind peering into loads of BA programmes) on editing, like editing is something that will naturally come to you by just looking at a manuscript. Or something...

    Talking with Andrew Prescott (our new Head of Department) he seems to think that editing is one of the few things that are genuinely DH specific, at least in the English speaking world, where it has disappeared from most BA and MA programmes. Comments?