Friday, May 30th, 2008 | elena razlogova
A project I’m currently working on seeks to bring together several existing standards and tools some of which – (TEI) standards for markup of digital texts, collaborative annotation, and timelines – have been proposed for discussion. I would like to offer some of our thoughts about possible directions for visualization in collaborative variorum and critical editions, as well as ask for suggestions.
I’m working, with Sean Gurd, a classics scholar at Concordia University in Montreal, on a tool for collaborative comparison and annotation of classical (and potentially any other) texts. Such a tool would display a visual timeline of a given classical text, with versions of it from antiquity to our own time, with translations, linked to commentaries made in published sources, plus ongoing users’ comments.
The idea takes off from Sean’s work on different versions of Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides, where he argues that in most cases there are no “originals” for classical texts – they are often known only in excerpts, translations, or annotated versions that are much younger than the missing “original.” In such cases, versions, translations, and commentaries constitute the work itself. A digital representation of such a “work in progress” would make real something that so far exists only as an abstraction.
When we looked for interface models for this project, we couldn’t find them at such major classics websites as the Perseus Digital Library or the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca – these are great compendiums of texts but have minimal user interaction features. Neither the wiki versioning interface in Wikipedia, nor the Simile Timeline seem entirely adequate. Sadly, the most evocative versioning/timeline interface so far seems to come from the timeline of backups in Leopard Mac OS. And while there is nothing wrong with borrowing from major industrial designers – Zotero borrowed some of it interface features from iTunes – ideally digital humanities should try to develop their own comparably elegant interface designs.
Elena (of Concordia Digital History Lab, Concordia University, Montreal)