Aodhán Kelly: Dissemination of digital editions

Hello. I’m Aodhán Kelly from Dublin, Ireland. I recently started my position as a DiXiT Early Stage Research Fellow (ESR 11) with the University of Antwerp supervised by Dirk Van Hulle.

My academic background is primarily in History, which I studied at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. I took a research Master’s degree there in 2009 in which I investigated the response to Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in Dublin during the fifty years following its publication in 1859. Since finishing my studies I have worked in digital publishing in the UK, most recently at the London School of Economics as a web producer. Prior to that I worked in Adam Matthew Digital as an editor for a number of digitised primary source collections designed for teaching and research in the humanities.

My research with DiXiT will focus on the ‘Dissemination of digital editions’. My role will be to establish a model by which digital editions can be circulated widely and effectively. In my opinion, for a digital scholarly edition to add value to the field of study to which it belongs it must be discoverable, usable and actually used. Otherwise it belongs to the same realm as a dusty book on a library shelf whose pages are never cut.

Some initial key questions for me to figure out are; who uses digital editions, why they use them, how they use them and how they discover them. The answers to which are not as obvious as one might assume. By shifting the focus towards the user it should be possible to design and disseminate digital editions that can and will be used effectively by their intended audiences. This topic is obviously a moving target given that users’ reading and research habits are changing dramatically alongside the rapid changes in technology that are providing new platforms for digital texts. I intend to take a broad view on the potential user base for digital editions, arguing that they should be designed for scholarly research but should also target university students, school classrooms and the general public. This may involve creating customised spin-off projects from the principal digital editions.

In terms of the project requirements, I’ve been charged with developing an editorial model and an editorial environment for the dissemination of digital editions. The model will essentially be a conceptual framework for the dissemination of editions to a wide variety of user types in multiple formats. The editorial environment will be a combination and enhancement of existing open source publishing technologies that will provide a practical means for this multi-format dissemination.

I’m currently based at King’s College London on secondment under the supervision of Elena Pierazzo until August 2014. Here I’m performing a user study on digital editions and the potential of portable devices, such as tablets and e-readers, as platforms for their dissemination. Using the results of this study I intend to develop and trial prototype tablet user interfaces for digital editions beginning with the Android OS.

In August I will move to Antwerp where I will be based at the Centre for Manuscript Genetics, which I’m greatly looking forward to.

Along with the other fellows, I recently made a basic introduction to my research and myself at the DiXiT network meeting in Cambridge which you can view here as a powerpoint presentation.

You can find me on Twitter @aodhankelly

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