Playing Many Parts: Models of Collaboration in an Electronic Edition

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Michael Best

    University of Victoria

  2. 2. Jessica Slights

    Acadia University

  3. 3. Peter van Hardenberg

    University of Victoria

  4. 4. Wendy Huot

    University of British Columbia

  5. 5. Alan Galey

    Western University (University of Western Ontario)

Work text
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Editorial theory has in recent years been much concerned
with re-evaluating the assumptions that lie behind the
practice of editing, in light of the arguments promulgated by
McGann and others that the text we edit is of necessity
constructed through social interaction. A parallel argument
makes the claim that the electronic medium is uniquely situated
to put into practice the claims of the theorists (exemplary
articles are included in the collection edited by Landow). While
creative collaboration is not a norm in the humanities, it is very
much at the centre of disciplines in the performing arts: drama,
in particular, involves the interaction of many kinds of creative
endeavour before a play is staged. The Internet Shakespeare
Editions are uniquely in a position to explore varieties of
collaboration that borrow from other disciplines: the open
source movement in software development, and the
well-developed traditions of collective creativity in the
performance arts, since the concept of 'text' in a play by
Shakespeare can - and arguably should - be extended to include
the history of his plays in performance. This panel will provide
a forum to discuss the electronic edition as an exemplar of the
creation of a social/performance text as the various contributors
to an edition interact and learn from each other.
Many of the collaborative activities in the preparation of an
edition for a print press are so familiar as to be transparent:
peer review, copy editing, data entry, printing, binding, distributing and so on. The print interface is also very stable,
with minimal experimentation with the appearance of the print
on the page (but see Jowett, Grusin and Bolter). Those working
in the electronic medium, however, are still experimenting with
ways of displaying the text and its associated navigational
structures. The result is that the lonely textual scholar will
ideally become involved in the process of creating much more
than simply a word-processor file to send off to the publisher.
The team of technical designers and programmers are unlikely
to understand what the editor sees as important or what a typical
user of the edition will be seeking, and the textual scholar is
unlikely to know what opportunities the full capabilities of the
medium offer: thus the most effective edition will be the result
of a deep and interdisciplinary collaboration between the various
The Internet Shakespeare Editions is a collaboration in many
ways. An academic Editorial Board oversees general standards;
plays are edited by individual editors, or (in several cases)
further collaboration between scholars; the General Textual
Editor works with the editors to ensure quality and consistency;
and technical experts work on separate but interrelated tasks -
the development of the XML structure that is the basis for
textual materials on the site, the creation of databases to display
images of the texts and of performance materials, the graphic
design of the site, and the stylesheets that determine the overall
look of both static and dynamic pages.
The analogy with the performing arts is persuasive, since they
typically involve a similar interaction between specialists (set
design, costume design, choreography, lighting), creative artists
(actors, the author perhaps) and administrative/creative
personnel (director, producer). Publishers and actors are
similarly concerned to reach and engage their audiences. Where
the analogy fails, however, is in the contrast between the
maturity of the theatre community and the inexperience of those
of us working to create electronic texts. Much in the way that
the print medium has evolved transparent signposts for
navigation within the book, theatre companies have evolved
generally consistent and effective structures to manage the
collaborative endeavour of producing a play. The challenge
that lies ahead for organizations like the Internet Shakespeare
Editions is to develop similarly coherent and effective
management of collaboration. How can we best ensure that
scholars are not intimidated by technical demands, and that the
programmers are aware of the full potential of the materials
they are responsible for displaying?
As well as providing a potential model for collaboration in the
creation of online texts, the analogy with stage performance
also provides a warning. Performance (unless on film) is
evanescent, leaving traces only in reviews and theatre archives.
Methods for preserving print are highly developed, and there
is every reason to expect that a book published today will
survive for several hundred years if it is judged worth the
storage space. But techniques for archiving and for ensuring
the permanence of electronic data are also evolving as file
formats and the medium itself evolve.
In a recent essay, W.B. Worthen asks
If we take the printform of a work to be like a performance,
materializing a historically contingent, socially inscribed instance
of the work . . . we may be able to seize a more dynamic sense of
the changing interplay between these two enduring, and volatile,
modes of production.
This panel will involve a representative group of those working
on different activities within the structure of the Internet
Shakespeare Editions as they explore the interplay between
multiple modes of production.
Panel members will give short presentations (maximum ten
minutes), in order to leave sufficient time for questions both
within the panel and from the floor.
Michael Best, Coordinating Editor of the Internet Shakespeare
Editions, will chair the panel, and begin by providing an
overview of the academic and administrative structure of the
ISE. He will also discuss the audience for which the editions
are designed, and the potential of content management software
and other software packages that facilitate collaboration.
Jessica Slights, one of two editors collaborating on Othello,
will discuss the challenges facing scholars trained in literary
studies as they work with the additional demands made by the
electronic text, both in the sheer quantity of material the
electronic space makes available, and in dealing with the
demands of preparing a text in e-format.
Peter van Hardenberg will discuss the need for the XML
structures chosen for the texts to reflect adequately the needs
of computing humanists.
Wendy Huot is responsible for designing the databases for
images and performance materials that will be integral to the
editions. Her presentation will explore strategies for developing,
in consultation, an overall data model that can organize and
interrelate a wide variety of binary and textual objects.
Alan Galey, an editor with extensive experience in
programming, will discuss current thinking on archiving and
long-term preservation of electronic artifacts.
A Kind of Yeasty Collection: Organizing
Collaboration in the Internet Shakespeare
Michael Best
In 1996, when I first began work on the Internet Shakespeare
Editions, I chose to describe my role as that of 'Coordinating Editor' rather than the more usual 'General Editor'. Coordination
and collaboration are necessarily at the centre of the
development of a major scholarly site that involves both
academic and technical organization. Academically, there is
an Editorial Board to oversee general standards, a General
Textual Editor to crack the whip, and an extensive team of
editors, since each play is being edited by one or more scholars.
On the technical side the demands are no less complex. Gone
are the days that a scholar can, as a sideline, whip up some
reasonably effective HTML code and publish it; Web users
now expect attractive, professionally designed pages, intuitive
navigation, and full searching capabilities. In addition, sites are
increasingly being generated from centralized relational
databases requiring sophisticated programming skills. All this
costs money, and it is still true, in Canada at any rate, that
granting agencies tend to be frugal in apportioning funds for
what seem more like computer science than Humanities
activities. One solution is to apply for funding for student
assistants — coop positions, MA or PhD fellowships and so
on — since these can be more readily justified as academic
expenses than the fees of professional programmers.
The challenge thus becomes the management of two teams,
largely separate in their activities, but requiring collaboration
before the editors' texts can be effectively displayed by the
structures created by the technical team. In his paper, Peter van
Hardenberg will discuss the problems that he faces in creating
an effective XML schema for the complex documents the
editors produce as they transcribe, modernize, collate, and
annotate texts that often have multiple origins; Wendy Huot
will discuss the process by which she is designing a database
that will respond flexibly to a wide range of textual and
multimedia artifacts created by the performance of Shakespeare.
On the academic side, Jessica Slights will discuss the learning
curve that a textual scholar faces when preparing materials for
electronic publication, and Alan Galey will bring the perspective
of that rare bird, a textual scholar who is also familiar with
programming, to the discussion of the long-term viability of
the texts we are publishing.
The technical team also requires a high level of internal
collaboration. Academic editors are used to working on their
own, but the various activities of the programmers — designing
templates for a consistent look, developing XML, and designing
the database — are deeply interconnected. There are also
important external consultants on graphic and interface design.
To facilitate collaboration, we are using standard processes —
email lists, a Yahoo discussion group, and conference calls —
but we are also looking at possibilities for software solutions:
a content management system that would permit flexible access
to the site, at the same time as making networks of
communication available to those working on parallel projects.
Made Tame and Most Familiar: Adapting to the
Medium of the E-text
Jessica Slights
This paper will address the topic of editorial collaboration from
the perspective of a literary scholar trained in Shakespeare
studies and now facing the multiple challenges of helping to
prepare an electronic edition of Othello for a modern readership.
The paper will argue, following Jeffrey Masten, that
collaboration was a prevalent model of textual production
during Shakespeare's lifetime, and that it is therefore a
particularly appropriate model for us to adopt in the 21st century
as we move to bring his plays to new reading audiences. I will
offer my own experiences in collaborative editing as a test case
for this claim since the Othello edition involves not simply the
traditional challenges of editorial partnership, but also a
commitment to new technologies that require a degree of
teamwork with which most scholars in the humanities are
probably unfamiliar.
Hierarchies and Treespaces: A Proposed
Extension of XML
Peter van Hardenberg
Those in the Humanities Computing community will be very
much aware of the limitations of XML as a markup language
for working with literary texts, especially in its awkwardness
in dealing with documents that require some method of
encoding overlapping hierarchies. As is the case in many other
projects, texts prepared for the Internet Shakespeare Editions
must at the very least record hierarchies that represent the
separate conceptual and physical divisions of the text. A third
independent hierarchy, tentatively labelled 'annotational' would
also simplify much of the difficulty in describing the
complexities of textual variants and other scholarly apparatus.
This paper will propose a solution to this problem through a
simple extension to the standard format of XML documents.
The necessary flexibility is accomplished by relaxing XML's
requirement that all element tags must form a single tree, to
the requirement that nesting must only be preserved within a
given treespace. A document may have multiple treespaces,
each with its own DTD or schema. Immediate advantages
include elegant decomposition of complex DTDs into modular
component DTDs, and the abolishment of stopgap tricks like
span tags. This change has many ramifications and
consequences to explore, including validation techniques,
combining documents, extensions to the DOM (Document
Object Model), and backwards compatibility with vanilla XML
formats. Application domains are not limited to the text
encoding community and could potentially be realised in many
fields including bioinformatics, word processing file formats, and any other field where tagging applies to a stream of
character data.
Communicating with the Ivory Tower: Modeling
Humanities Multimedia Data
Wendy Huot
Creating a data model for Humanities multimedia and data
requires scholarly understanding of the content itself and a
technical understanding of database design. This can lead to
collaboration between humanities scholars and database
technicians; experts that may be largely ignorant of the other's
The major communication challenge in such a collaboration is
defining the functional requirements of the data model.
Misunderstandings abound due to a lack of shared terminology,
the scholar's unfamiliarity with the needs and capabilities of
the technology, and the technician's ignorance of the significant
characteristics of the data to be modeled. Special cases and
extremes within the data provide for a difficult interdependency:
the technician may need to be warned of problematic special
cases by the scholar, but only the technician may understand
what kinds of special cases are problematic.
The Internet Shakespeare Edition's development of a data model
(and resulting database) for text and multimedia performance
materials inspired some strategies for managing collaboration.
These strategies included describing data content with samples
in hand, early development of speculative designs, and
conducting technical discussion using media — such as instant
messaging — that record a text log of the conversation for later
Collaborating with the Future: Shakespeare and
Alan Galey
"Thy easy numbers flow," writes John Milton in an early poetic
commentary on the preservation and transmission of
Shakespeare's works: "each heart / Hath from the leaves of thy
unvalued book, / Those Delphic lines with deep impression
took" (10-2). Unusual in its praise for print as a preservation
format, Milton's poem prefaces the first reprinting of
Shakespeare's first chief textual archive, the collection of the
plays in folio (1623, rpt. in 1632, 1663-4, and 1685). Since the
advent of electronic Shakespearean editing and text analysis,
Milton's words have acquired unintended resonance. As encoded
alphanumeric data, Shakespeare's works easily flow into new
digital forms and objects of analysis. (Indeed, Shakespearean
compatibility with hypermedia is almost a truism now.) But
Milton's poem also serves to remind projects like the ISE of
two vital points: that a distinctly Shakespearean subculture of
textual archiving predates us by centuries; and that even in 1632
this subculture had articulated the importance of both
collaboration and remediation.
This brief paper will attempt to bridge the distance between
digital preservation and software longevity practices, on the
one hand, and Shakespearean editing and textual studies, on
the other. Both traditions of thought bear upon the ISE's
electronic transcriptions of plays and poems from the 1623
Folio and the early quartos. In developing encoding strategies
for these complex, historically loaded texts, the ISE must weigh
present software needs against future interoperability, and TEI
compliance against editorial responsibility. As Milton
understood, Shakespeare has no perfect archive for
"transcendental data" (as Alan Liu terms it); his works persist
only through renewal and collaboration with generations - and
encoding formats - yet unknown.
Grusin, Richard, and J. David Bolter. Remediation:
Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.
Jowett, John. "Addressing Adaptation: Measure for Measure
and Sir Thomas More." Textual Performances. Ed. Lucas Erne
and Margaret Jane Kidnie. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2004. 63-76.
Landow, George P., ed. Hyper / Text / Theory. Baltimore, MD:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
Liu, Alan. "Transcendental Data: Toward a Cultural History
and Aesthetics of the New Encoded Discourse." Critical
Enquiry 31 (2004): 49-81.
McGann, Jerome J. A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
McGann, Jerome J. The Textual Condition. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1991.
McGann, Jerome J. The Rationale of Hypertext. Institute for
Advanced Technology, University of Virginia, 6 May 1995.
Accessed 2005-03-23. <http://www.iath.virginia
McGann, Jerome J. Textonics: Literary and Cultural Studies
in a Quantum World. National Humanities Center, Revised:
October 1995. Accessed 2005-03-23. <http://www.nhc.
Milton, John. "On Shakespeare. 1630." The Complete Poems.
Ed. John Leonard. London: Penguin, 1998. 19. Worthen, W.B. "The Imprint of Performance." Theorizing
Practice: Redefining Theatre History. Ed. W.B. Worthen and
Peter Holland. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
2003. 213-234.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

June 15, 2005 - June 18, 2005

139 works by 236 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double checked.

Conference website:

Series: ACH/ICCH (25), ALLC/EADH (32), ACH/ALLC (17)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None