ESR 11 – Reeling in the years 2014-2017
The dust has finally settled on what has been a whirlwind few years as part of our now beloved DiXiT network and it’s time to reflect on the whole process and report some of the outcomes. I can truly say that I have come out a different person – armed with new knowledge and experiences as well as an expansive network of wonderful people across many countries. With the support of this network I was able to get my PhD completed in just over 3 years, which I defended successfully in Antwerp in July 2017, on the topic “Disseminating digital scholarly editions of textual cultural heritage”. It would be impossible to thank everyone that contributed to the doctorate within the scope of a short blog post – so I’ll leave it to you to look up my thesis acknowledgements section for some light bedtime reading.
My position was located at the Centre for Manuscript Genetics in the beautiful city of Antwerp, where Dirk Van Hulle provided a wise and invaluable guiding hand throughout the entire research process as my supervisor. My two research secondments proved to be instrumental in my research. I was fortunate to begin my DiXiT time with the venerable Elena Pierazzo on a secondment at the Digital Humanities department in King’s College London. As someone stepping into digital scholarly editing from a parallel field I had the support of one of the best in the business in developing my knowledge of scholarly editing from the ground up. During that time I conducted a user study into the potential use of tablet computers for disseminating digital editions, the results of which formed a core part of my research. The other secondment was at the University of Victoria in Canada where I got to work with another heavyweight in digital humanities, Ray Siemens, and his wonderful team at the Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory. This secondment provided me with excellent exposure to a diversity of knowledge environments and interfaces – as well as a perspective on our field that was different to what I had encountered in Europe. These secondments combined with the structured training programme we followed during the first half of DiXiT provided enough food for thought to write multiple PhDs (but one is more than enough thank you very much!).
While at HQ in Antwerp the key project I was involved in was the Brulez Digital Exhibit, together with Elli, Dirk and our CMG colleague Vincent Neyt. This acted as a principle case study for my research into the dissemination of digital scholarly editions to broader audiences. The ongoing creation of a digital edition of Sheherazade (1932) by the Flemish author Raymond Brulez allowed the opportunity to create something a little different. This came in the form of a digital exhibit of the textual genesis of Sheherazade presented on a touchscreen interface now in the permanent exhibition space of the Letterenhuis museum and archive of Flemish literature in Antwerp. During the time at Antwerp I also worked closely with Huygens DiXiT fellow Anna-Maria Sichani on the topic of financial sustainability in relation to digital editions.
Over the course of the three years the DiXiT fellows progressed rapidly from conference attendees to conference presenters, organisers and peer reviewers. I was involved in organising two conferences in Antwerp, the DHBenelux conference in 2015 and the ESTS conference in 2016. Conferences and conventions really formed the core of DiXiT operations, the moments when we all got to be together as a group, which was always constructive and a hell of a lot of fun too.
Being located in Flanders offered me an ideal opportunity to learn the language of my partner – Dutch. Thanks to our training funding I could attend Linguapolis, the best language school in Antwerp, and completed the courses to ‘professional’ level in under two years. Being able to communicate with my partner, her family and those around me in my new home in Amsterdam has been a true gift – and I get to enjoy the sight of eyebrows raising to the peculiarity of someone using Flemish dialect with an Irish accent while living in Holland. I’ve now taken up a position as an editor for the international educational foundation, the International Baccalaureate. So I’ve returned to digital publishing, the profession from whence I came, except now with more skills, and letters after my name. Luckily, I have been able to stay connected to the University of Antwerp simultaneously as a Research Associate, so I can keep one foot inside academia and continue to work on publishing the results of the research.
In truth DiXiT isn’t finished, it’s only the funding that has stopped. Apart from that I find myself in recent weeks to be in contact with DiXiT fellows and supervisors almost as much as we were during the project itself. A few months after our official end date I presented as part of a panel of DiXiT fellows at DH2017 with Anna-Maria, Elli, Wout and Merisa in Montreal on accessibility and digital editions – and we are preparing to publish an article on our research in this area. Along with a couple of other publications in the pipeline and hopefully a conference or two in the near future I hope to continue flying the DiXiT flag for as long as I can.