Tag Archives: editorial studies

Susanne Haaf presenting the lecture

Musings about a lecture: Deutsches Textarchiv Basisformat: A TEI Basic Format not only for German

Yesterday I had the pleasure to follow a lecture by Susanne Haaf about “Das DTA-Basisformat zur TEI-XML-konformen Annotation historischer Textressourcen” at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (BBAW) as part of the DH-Kolloqium an der BBAW, a series of DH related lectures organized by Alexander Czmiel, Stefan Dumont, Christian Thomas and Kay-Michael Würzner at the BBAW. This new initiative is with its stimulating content also a welcome “prequel” to the Berlin DH regular’s table that welcomes every month the Berlin DH community to its present location, the picturesque Deckshaus, a boat-café in the centre of Berlin and is being organized by Markus Schnöpf from Digital Humanities Berlin.

In her lecture Susanne Haaf introduced the DTA-Basisformat (DTABf), a basis annotation format for historical texts in corpora and text collections. Because Susanne Haaf has already written an exhaustive German Blogpost about the current state of the DTABf and the website of the Deutsche Textarchiv covers extensive German documentation (header Dokumentation), I will not recap her very informative lecture. As being – like Susanne Haaf – currently a member of the H2020 project PARTHENOS, I will attempt to highlight in a few words why the DTABf is interesting to a wider audience, a point discussed yesterday and reflected in endeavours mentioned in Susanne Haafs blog post to make the DTABf accessible to a wider community in English (a short introduction to the DTABf in English can be also found here).


Susanne Haaf presenting the lecture

Screenshot of tweet by ifDHb: Susanne Haaf presenting her lecture, Source: https://twitter.com/ifDHberlin/status/903652127507132416


The TEI has become more or less a de facto standard for the representation of text in digital form. However, the TEI is not very prescriptive. In a nutshell one might say that the TEI-Guidelines make a variety of offers to the community how to encode individual phenomena found in the sources, but the users are free to choose how to actually encode them (meaning which elements and attributes from the TEI reflect their needs the best). This means that even though the TEI regulates encoding with its extensive tagset, there are often different markup-options for similar phenomena that cause a problem for interoperability. The DTA aimed to solve this problem for its corpus by reducing the TEI tagset and defining the attributes that can be used in order to resolve ambiguities and to enhance interoperability (e.g. enable comparison, visualization).

With its focus on interoperability, the value of the DTABf, although having been developed for the DTA, a digital archive mainly of historical German texts, transcends German historical texts and the DTA. This is proven already by its use by external projects, not all of them with the aim of a final integration into the DTA, and the point that although having been developed initially in the context of the DTA it by now recommended by the DFG (the German Research Foundation) and CLARIN-D as annotation and exchange format for editions and historical corpora. Therefore an English documentation, more good practice examples, including a more detailed statement for which kinds of editorial aims it is a good choice (e.g. text oriented edition vs. document layout oriented edition of historical texts as discussed yesterday), would in my opinion greatly contribute to the international take up of the DTABf as addition to customizations already provided by the TEI.

Last but not least it is worth mentioning that the DTABf contains “subsets” for historical prints (1600-1900) and manuscripts (DTABfM). Although not explicitly stated in the guidelines, at least I was not able to find it, the DTABfM is not targeted at medieval manuscripts, but early modern manuscripts. As this information is based mainly on discussions with DTA practitioners, it would be interesting to delve deeper into the question if it works also for medieval manuscripts at least for basic encoding (maybe one of my next posts?). Experiences, comments, ideas?

Nachtrag (8.9.2017): Ein deutscher Nachbericht und die Folien des Vortrags von Susanne Haaf sind jetzt online.


Mountain View Austria 2015

Will the Digital Humanities save the world?

A very personal recap of DHd-Tagung 2015 “Von Daten zu Erkenntnissen”, 23rd-27th February (Graz) and DHSummit 2015 3rd-5th March  (Berlin)

During the last weeks I had the pleasure to attend to the Digital Humanities Conferences DHd Graz and DHSummit Berlin. It were very inspiring days: full of talks, private chats and many merry moments, last but not least was one highlight the city tour Graz at Night. However, the most important were of course the lectures and presentations! So, before I go one, first a very warm Thank You to the organizers and all the people who were involved with the preparations and those who took care of the conferencing crowd!

As I had to miss Manfred Thallers keynote at DHd2015 and only got a glimpse on its content via Twitter, I was happy to hear him live at the DHSummit. What struck me most, was his claim for theory, a very urgent claim that is being discussed at the moment in the DH community. Without theory in most cases DH doesn’t really seem make sense, because if you cannot validate your results by methods, which worth do your research results have?

To gain more comprehension and recognition from the (hmmm… traditional?) Humanities, new methods and new theories are needed. This means that traditional methods cannot (or should not?) be applied one to one in DH research. For example for editorial sciences this means finding new ways for editions and not trying to rebuild digitally the critical apparatus that already in print no-one, except the editorial scientist, understands – or even worse – is interested in. It also means that you have to indicate if your results are valid, as Malte Rehbein pointed out, it depends if a trend is a trend, or only an indication of different quality of your data. As humanists we neither want our research results influenced by our breakfast preferences (one citation from the DHSummit) nor by bad data or lacking methods.

Which brings us to another topic that was discussed intensely during both conferences, standards and sustainability. The Digital Humanities thrive on data. Whether we call them big data or small data or smart data, we need digital data. Questions concerning the long term preservation of digital data, especially of complex data (editions, databases, 3D-visualisations, interactive visualisations, etc.), have to be solved very urgently. Sustainable infrastructures that can be held responsible for this task are needed. I was quite impressed about the amount of people in the audience during the panel discussion of the AG Datenzentren at Graz as discussing long term preservation is not the hottest topic in the DH community (yet). More about this topic from a metaperspective can be found in Christine L. Borgmans latest book: Big Data, Small Data, No Data and I am looking forward for her lecture in Göttingen.

Last but not least, the evening lecture by Michael Seemann and Ralf Stockmann at the DHSummit ended in minor with an apocalyptic prophecy: humanity will be extincted by computer super intelligence in the near future (say around 2030, more about it here). During the lively discussion afterwards there was however a glimpse of hope, maybe getting the Humanities more involved in these developments and not leave it all to the military etc. might save the world for the next generation…

I am not a prophet, so I don’t know if the (Digital) Humanities will have the super power to save the world from the Super Intelligence Computer Apocalypse or rend humanity immortality (though the last sounds quite intriguing), but I am strongly convinced they are adding many interesting aspects to the Humanities. Maybe at the moment they are “a flower some use to adorn themselves with” (another metaphor used in Berlin), though some scholars fear the extinction of the Humanities by the Digital Humanities.

However we will call them in the future, Digital Humanities methods are meant to stay, and I hope with Andrea Rapp in the middle of the disciplines.

Now and in future.

(If we take care of the data)

DHBenelux2014: Boosting Digital Humanities in the Benelux states

DHBenelux 2014, June 12-13, 2014, The Hague, Netherlands

Hosted by the Royal Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) and Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands  

The so called Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg) share a long common history and are acting in modern Europe often together, as three small countries acting united can achieve more than three small countries acting alone. This was definitely true for the first joint DHBenelux conference this June in The Hague.

The amount and diversity of attendees was astonishing, given that this was the first conference of its kind (have a look at the DHBenelux-Website for the program and attendees)! Amongst the speakers were not only some of the most prominent DHBenelux-researchers, but the organizers were also able to draw as keynote Melissa Terras (Director of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and Professor of Digital Humanities at University College London (UCL)).

I departed at 5 in the morning by train from Göttingen and was really lucky that the serious thunderstorms the days before had not blocked my travel route completely. Because I first had to go to my hotel (I did stay at a very tiny, but very nice hotel called Statenhotel), I missed a few minutes of the very inspiring keynote by Melissa Terras (and lucky me, I was even able to discuss a little bit with her during the coffee break…).

Thursday afternoon and Friday morning were filled by sessions of three researchers each, a live demonstration of some projects (Chordify was definitely very popular, but they brought a real guitar), the conference diner, and poster presentations. I will not start mentioning all the names here and also not go into details concerning the content of the presentation, as some very good reviews have already been published by Marisa Martinez (http://dixit.hypotheses.org/348), Heidi Elaine Dowding (http://dixit.hypotheses.org/tag/dh-benelux), and Max Kemman (http://www.maxkemman.nl/2014/06/grasping-technology/) and many researchers were tweeting live during the conference using #DHBenelux or @DHBenelux. Wout Dillan even made a textual analysis of the tweets with Voyant tools. More blogposts about the conference might be collected here.

Wout Dillan's textual analysis of DHBenelux twitter feed

Wout Dillan’s textual analysis of DHBenelux twitter feed

Truly funny was the experience that although all speeches were given in English, the breaks were full of Dutch and only occasionally some French, German or English. However it might have felt strange for Dutch natives (and all the other non-English speakers as well) to communicate during the official part of the conference in English, the non-Dutch speakers truly appreciated this effort because it was opening up the discussion for all. So I truly hope that the language policy will not change next year. I guess we have to accept that English has become the lingua franca in international research communities (and probably most researchers nowadays prefer English to Latin, which was the academic lingua franca up to the 19th century, just saying that…).

KB Aula wall poem

KB Aula wall poem

The organizing team of DHBenelux 2014 (Steven Claeyssens, Karina van Dalen-Oskam, Mike Kestemont and Marijn Koolen has done a great job by putting together a varied program of speeches, posters and live presentations. The organizing heart of the conference was Suzanne van Kaam, who did a great job, never loosing track of any tiny detail. I am very thankful for having my speech about coding the Vierde Partie by Lodewijk van Velthem in TEI accepted (abstract: http://dhbenelux.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/unstable-data-wuttke.pdf, the slides are available on Slideshare: http://de.slideshare.net/DHBenelux/towards-a-digital-edition-of-the-vierde-partie-of-the-speigel-historiael). I definitely learned a lot! Thank you all for the great hospitality!

Given this overall success all participants were happy to hear next year’s conference announced to be held June 11-12 2015 at Antwerp. I am convinced these kind of activities can truly boost DH research in the Benelux-states as they not only give a platform for DH Benelux researcher to meet and share ideas, but it is also boosting DH activities in the Benelux on an international level.

See you in Antwerp!


Torn between Creating Data and Saving Data

As the deadline for DHBenelux 2014 is approaching, I start panicking slightly as my paper is still not ready. Quite a lot of my time is absorbed by my new job as a more formal kick-off of the project Humanities Data Centre is scheduled for next week. With many partners involved (you can read the official press-release of the GWDG here, sorry only in German), you can imagine it takes a lot of communication and getting to know each other. I also try to get some ideas about my new town and found already a nice yoga studio and a little choir. And I have to admit that I really need some stretching and singing with my otherwise quite sedative activities, so I have to take into account to make time for this as well.

So while I am thinking of Saving Data, I am also thinking of how to Create Data, in my case, a digital edition of the German Vierde Partie of the Spiegel Historiael by Lodewijk van Velthem. And the more I think about it while actually reading Patrick Sahle’s dissertation on Digital Editions (this enormously inspiring work is published Open Access here, again only in German) the more I start doubting. Now is doubt in academia not generally a bad thing, but the start of good research question, but at the moment I feel still miles away from translating the implications of his approach to the actual edition process. Good news it, almost two more weeks to go until the conference… So some time left to make up strategies to resolve this riddle!

If you can read German and are interested in digital editions, do get Patrick Sahle’s books! No easy read, but worth their time!


So many forms of texts… Cover of the third part of Patrick Sahle, Digitale Editionsformen, Schriften des Instituts für Dokumentologie und Editorik, 9, Norderstedt, 2013. Image location is http://www.i-d-e.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/cover_Bd_9-klein.png.


Upcoming: DigHum13 Summer School 2013

I just submitted my first ever poster abstract for the DH Summer School that will take place in Leuven (Belgium) from 18 to 20 September 2013! Pretty exciting, I must say. I am really curious how the jury will like my idea about a modular digital edition of the Vierde Partie of the High German Spiegel Historiael. Of course I strongly hope they will accept it so that I will be able to receive feed back and practical advice during the poster presentation from the senior researchers that will be present. But even without a poster, I can not wait to the end of September. The program is so to say mouthwatering…

The Berlin manuscript in its original binding

The Berlin manuscript in its original binding