Francisco Javier Álvarez Carbajal: Practice and usability of critical editions (ESR5)
My name is Francisco Javier and I am originally from Oviedo (Spain). I got my Degree in History at the University of Oviedo in 2009. There I did the master “The medieval town”, where I decided to specialize in Paleography and Diplomatics with a dissertation on the documentary strategies and legal arguments in the control of Asturian towns at the end of the 15th Century. During the last three years and a half, I devoted my career to the study of the documentary production of the Counts of Luna in the 15th Century.
Now I am engaged in a new and exciting project: for the next three years of my life I will be based in Lyon working for the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, where I will be conducting my research on “Practice and usability of critical editions”, supervised by Marjorie Burghart.
During the last years we have witnessed a remarkable growth in the number of projects regarding critical scholarly editions. The aim of reaching a major scholar recognition of SDE remains as a legitimate goal within the DH community, based in the strong conviction that Digital Editions are better than their print equivalents. However, SDE still pose an important number of obstacles challenging our work as editors, to which digital scholarship has to offer a satisfactory answer within the next years.
For example, the difficulty to learn the technical skills required to become a digital editor are still considerable. And once learnt, the existing modelling and tools do not always meet the editor’s particular purposes or necessities. As a matter of fact, the current TEI critical apparatus module has proved to be quite inconsistent regarding the expression of textual variance or fitting in editions dealing with automatic collation. Similarly, DH scholarship has expressed the concern of having available tools so that any editor who had the skills to make a print edition could make a digital one instead. However, still nowadays those scholars willing to transition to the SDE world have to deal with user-hostile tools that do not take into account the way editors work, or lack of easily accessible tools to process and publish the product of their work.
Methodologically, I will engage in a case study: the edition of medieval biblical distinctiones. The goal is to be able to make proposals as a critical editor myself, rather than someone who has just observed critical editors from the outside. Together with the philological aspects of the edition, which will be trained over the next years, my current background in Diplomatics will enable me to become familiar with both aspects of scholarly editing medieval texts. By the end of my research, I should be able to elaborate some sort of “white paper” on the needs of critical editors (their workflow, the way both modelling (TEI) and tools fit this workflow or not, etc.) and make proposals to make their work easier and more efficient. At the other end of the chain, I could assess the “usability” of the produced edition, how they answer or not scholarly needs (and the needs of a larger audience, maybe), how they fit into the general academic landscape, with an important trio of makers (the scholars), users (scholars, students, general audience, whoever may interact, etc.) and institutions holding the source material (libraries, archives, museums) who are more and more eager to get involved into digital editions, or at least, it seems, to reduce the gap between the material and what is made of it by scholars.