Halfway through the story of …*
* The Divine Comedy‘s incipit: «Nel mezzo del cammin…» translated by Ciaran Carson (Dante’s Inferno, 2002)
While working on a project, it is wise to make time for moment’s reflection. So, after my first 6 months in An Foras Feasa, a few weeks of secondments in Cologne and two Summer Schools this is my time to sum up the outcome and then go ahead.
My attendance at the first two DiXit meetings (the first in Borås in February and the other in Cologne in April) made me understand that a sense of disorientation and confusion is normal and part of our “DiXit-training”. So, heartened by the DiXiters, during all spring I devoted myself in two principal tasks:
1. to understand the complexity of the Letters 1916 project (background, workflow, outreach – helping the team in the encoding about metadata)
2. to advance in tech skills learning more and more about Python and XSLT.
As part of the Letters 1916 team, in the middle of April I joined Susan Schreibman, Karolina Badzmierowska and Emma Clarke in some outreach activities in Enniscorty, a town in Wexford county. Despite my ‘not-so-brilliant-English-competence’ I succeeded in helping and explaining instructions about up-load format, both to elderly people in the public library and boys in the secondary school. That experience was very useful for breaking the ice, and I hope that I will again have the opportunity to join the team for another launch in the autumn.
The month of May was a very busy moment for me. The 8 and 9 of the “roses’ month” I took part in the workshop Theory and Practice of Literary Annotation in Tübingen. The meeting, organized by the Faculty of Philosophy for the English Literature seminars, was a great opportunity for interdisciplinary interaction. Thanks to the lecturers invited by Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker, the same concept of ‘annotation’ was analysed and interpreted differently according to the discipline or the aim of project. The final round-table was inspiring and laid down the basis for collecting the reflections on ‘annotation topic’ in a monographic publication.
Between the 20 and 21 of May I had a break with activities connected to DiXit and the Irish spring for a brief ‘dive into the past’. I spent two marvellous sunny days in Rome thanks to the presentation of my 2014-‘creature’ Cursus in Clausula during the seminar L’ écriture Latine en réseaux , hosted by l’Ecole France de Rome.
On the last week of May, with others DiXiters (Elena, Anna Maria and Misha) I attended a flash workshop organized by Magdalena Turska in Oxford in order to discover the TEI Simple tool.
July came and it was time for me to go to Cologne. To be precise, for my secondment I was hosted by the Cologne Center for e-Humanities (CCeH ). My five weeks in the city of ‘Kölsch culture’ represented a very full immersion in exploring tools, methodologies and approaches applied to a wide variety of projects. As far as I’m concerned, the main impressive thing on the CCeH, it is the ability and the aptitude to face at the same time such many different fields of research. Thanks to the generosity of all members of the team, who spent some time with me (despite the summer and the holiday time!), I was able to learn about some of their major works in progress. The CCeH actions range from the papyrology (e.g. Magica Levantina) to the sociology (e.g. Luhman-Archive), from the crowd-sourced interests to the preservation (and re-use) of old digital linguistic corpora as Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries. Such a flexibility I think it is possible thanks to a good collaboration and communication inside the team and the different specializations of every collaborator. If it is true that in the digital environment, all the ‘humanistic’ materials became ‘data’, it is also true that the management and development of a project which handles linguistic material are deeply different from the one which tackles on collection of artefacts… even if the goal could be the same (e.g. the study of historical context) and despite the automation of the workflow processing, only an expert can really customize the best model for a specific set of data connected with a project (more or less, this will be the topic of the panel which I will join in Hague next Thursday, see the program). As a concrete training results, I improved my practice with XSLT testing and created some automated transformations from the bunch of letters in order to obtain three different reference list: one for the people, one for the places and one for the institutions. At the end, probably the extraction thorough Python scripts will be more efficient, but this experiment was served hopefully as a starting point for some other considerations about proofing issues faced by the team of The Letters 1916.
Right now, I am not completely satisfied with my results, but I have to say that I have been on a steep learning curve since arriving at DiXit network. In addition, during these months – meanwhile I was improving my technical skills, knowledge of Irish history and English language – three of my past labours were finally published (one paper, one book, another proceedings-paper)…probably it is true that: omnia tempus habent.