A Descriptive Classification Generator for Electronic Editions

  1. 1. Edward Vanhoutte

    Office for Scholarly Editing and Document Studies - Centrum voor Teksteditie en Bronnenstudie (KANTL)

  2. 2. Ron Van den Branden

    Centrum voor Teksteditie en Bronnenstudie (KANTL)

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Electronic scholarly editions which mimick conventional
models of scholarly editions as prescribed by different
theoretical and methodological schools provide denotative
models (Geertz, 1993, p. 93) which thrive on the otherness of
the digital medium but re-emphasize the computational aspect
of the 'computer-based' (Steding, 2002), 'Computergestützte'
(Kamzelak, 1999), or computer-assisted scholarly edition. The
isomorphism between the digital and the print medium aimed
at by the application of computational techniques to the praxis
of scholarly editing confirms what we already know. What is
interesting, however, is not the degree to which the computer
can assist the editor in digitizing, creating, and publishing an
edition, but the intentional artefacts which are built by using
the computer as a modelling tool (Smith, 2002). They are
instrumental in two crucial activities of humanities research,
that is, the discovery of meaning and the making of meaning.
As products of (experimental) modelling, their purpose is 'to
achieve failure so as to raise and point the question of how we
know what we know' (McCarty, 1999), 'what we do not know',
and 'to give us what we do not yet have.' (McCarty, 2004, p.
255) This paper will address the role of experimental modelling
and the assessment of exemplary models of scholarly editions
in the development of a useful classification, typology, and
description of electronic editions. Classification
As psycholinguistic research has shown, categorization is
innate in human cognition (Giannakopoulou, 2003) and involves the formation and use of patterns in a self-maximizing
system (deBono, 1978, pp. 25-43). Operations which can be
classified under this scholarly primitive are naming, labelling,
classifying, cataloguing, indexing, sorting, etc. Categorizing
as a mind process can result in the production of formalized
instruments such as bibliographies, indexes, catalogues,
classification schemes, and taxonomies for which advanced
subject analysis is needed. For the most part, however, it
remains a culturally determined mind tool particularly where
it is used for the selection of usefulness. This means that
categorizing is not determined by how the world is, but tries to
develop convenient ways in which to represent it (Hacking,
1999, p. 33).
Traditions and Typologies
Textual scholarship is fragmented by the development of
different theories, methods, and praxes which are based
on a diversity of attitudes and perspectives (author, language,
audience, function, format, etc.). This becomes especially clear
when studying current typologies and classification schemes
for scholarly editions. Heinrich Meyer (1992) surveyed the
literature on textual scholarship in Germany in the twentieth
century and listed more than forty names for different types of
editions that were used. As he argued, the 'ausgabentypoligische
Terminologiewirrwarr' (Meyer, 1992, p. 17) is the result of a
methodological pluralism both inside and across editorial
As a consequence, there is no one theoretical paradigm for
textual scholarship across all traditions, periods, languages, and
authors and there is no one universally applicable taxonomy of
editorial types. Moreover, the existing taxonomies are seldom
internally consistent in their applied perspective. The simplified
representation in the German school, for instance, offers a
taxonomy which runs from the archive edition over the
historical-critical edition to the study and the reading edition
(Kanzog, 1970, pp. 9-44). Where 'archive edition' denotes the
archival function of this type of edition and hints at the extent
of the documentary set presented, 'historical-critical' refers both
to the method used to create the edition and the format in which
that edition comes before the user. The study-edition and
reading edition, on the other hand, identify the envisioned
function of the product and its intended audience in their
naming. In the Anglo-American tradition, the copy-text edition
refers to a specific theory of establishing a text whereas the
types of scholarly editions David Greetham mentions in his
Textual Scholarship. An Introduction mainly refer to the format
or appearance of the edition, such as 'parallel print edition',
'variorum edition', or 'type facsimile edition', or to a combination
of format and method such as 'Eclectic Clear-Text Edition with
Multiple Apparatus'. (Greetham, 1994, p. 383)
The least useful typology of scholarly editions is based on the
publication medium. Here we have print edition, hybrid edition,
and electronic edition. Especially this last one is often presented
as a meaningful class while it is widely used to name almost
anything which is available in an electronic format. A sad
example is, for instance, the édition électronique of the
correspondence of René Descartes which is nothing more than
a 35 page MSWord file which has been made available online
dance.doc> .
Electronic editions
With respect to the classification of electronic editions,
it becomes difficult to maintain the application of
conventional typologies and taxonomies, or ignore them
altogether. The danger of a normative typology and hence a
rigid theoretical frame for textual scholarship is that it
establishes its principles firmly without allowing the
advancement of its theories, methodologies, and practices.
However, as a scholarly discipline, scholarly editing should be
interested in both. Especially when, in the case of electronic
scholarly editing, exemplary modeling is employed as a
scholarly method to generate electronic editions rather than the
epigonuous application of rigid theory and method to the
electronic edition.
Classification Generator
For reasons of identification and bibliographic research on
electronic editions (Lavagnino, 1996; Dahlström, 2002;
Kirschenbaum, 2002; Van der Weel, 2005), there is a need for
some integrated scheme by which editors of electronic editions
can describe their edition according to several parameters. With
the classification generator which we propose here, we believe
we have developed a tool which can be of aid to that purpose.
The classification generator is an on-line tool which allows the
editor to input the details of the electronic edition atomized in
meta-information on the edited text (language, period, genre)
and information on the edition via a user-friendly form. The
latter minimally contains details about method, intended
audience, content, format, encoding, technology, function, and
functionality of the edition. Once the edition is described
according to these parameters, a descriptive classification code
is generated that can be included in the published edition. This
classification code is an alphanumerical string that exactly
describes the electronic edition from multiple perspectives. The
classification generator serves at least three goals. First, it
liberates the field of electronic scholarly editing from the
conventional text-editorial theories with their rigid and generator atomizes the different facets of the electronic edition
and presents the sum total of this documentation as a description
of the product. Second, the user confronted with an electronic
edition gets a detailed description of the kind of electronic
edition one is using on inputting the classification code in the
classification generator. Third, the codes derived from the
classification generator can be of use for an (analytical)
bibliography of electronic editions. The description of an
improved re-release of an electronic edition will generate a
different classification code which could be collated against
the codes of other releases of the same edition.
A last feature of the classification generator is the option to
register an edition's classification code together with a formal
bibliographic description in a database. This database will allow
theorists of electronic scholarship and bibliographers of new
media to perform interesting forms of analysis on its contents.
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Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. London:
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Conference Info


ADHO - 2007

Hosted at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, United States

June 2, 2007 - June 8, 2007

106 works by 213 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (2)

Organizers: ADHO

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