B.2. Current state…

B.2. Current state of knowledge

  • Summarise the previous research in the field of the proposal.
  • Describe the current state of the art, including relevant research within the EU Framework Programmes and other EU fora, comparison of EU research with that in other parts of the world.
  • Explain how the Action will be innovative in addressing either a new problem or a new approach to an existing problem.

Momentarily Canada’s TAPOR-project comes closest to what – but is still far from – what Interedition would want to achieve. TAPOR’s aim is to provide an integrated workbench of text analysis tools by way of a portal. To achieve this TAPOR provides an online interface to a number of tools that in essence have been around for quite a number of years but did not share formats, programming languages or technical infrastructure. Although relying on somewhat older computing techniques, TAPOR cannot be overestimated in it’s intention and success of integrating a variety of text analysis tools from different technical and organizational origins.

As for standardization in format the initiative that has made a considerable and – from a methodological viewpoint – important advance within the community of literary scholars is the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). This initiative laid down the fundamental methodology and practices for the standardized XML-description of literary works. The TEI-consortium carries it’s mission to disseminate good practices in encoding of digital editions out to this very day.

Considering tools for creating digital editions quite a number can be identified, to name but a few: TUSTEP – TUebingen System of TExt processing Programs (http://www.zdv.uni-tuebingen.de/tustep/tustep_eng.html); The ARCHway Project’s EPT – Edition Production Technology (http://beowulf.engl.uky.edu/~kiernan/ARCHway/entrance.htm); University of Virgina’s Juxta (http://www.patacriticism.org/juxta/?page_id=2); Classical Text Editor by the Commission for Editing the Corpus of the Latin Church Fathers (CSEL, http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kvk/). The majority of these tools is technically oriented and preoccupied with the collation and representation of variant texts. Though this is a very valid focus (as different representants of the same work do reveal much about the origins and intentions of a work), in most cases it brings along a quite technology oriented of the interface of the tools. This technology oriented window on text obstructs the main body of literary text researchers form using the tools that could considerably advance their understanding of text and literature.

Over the last 30 years a vast amount of cd-roms, websites, pdf’s etc. etc. have seen the light that could be enumerated under the label ‘digital edition’. It’s impossible to list all in this proposal, as examples the results of the Canterbury Tales Project (http://www.canterburytalesproject.org/) may be indicated as well as the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes (http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/index.jsp). Almost every digital edition in the corpus that could be compiled, relies on its own methodology, techniques, architecture and information carrier.

As far as can been evaluated at this point there has been no state of the art usability research into the use of all the tools, portals, digital editions etc. that the fore mentioned research has sprouted.

Innovative factor

All tools, formats and applications considered in the preparation of this proposal were originally developed on local infrastructure, and were dependent on local organizational facilities, knowledge and coding practices. Local practices prevented wide spread support and usage of the tools. As indicated TAPOR appears to be the first to provide an integrated toolset on line, but does this still on a centralized local architecture. Interedition wants to initiate an international collaborative for an investigation into the possibilities of decentralized development and hosting of tools for the production of digital editions. Interedition’s challenge is to govern the decentralized development of tools – which means that participating researchers and developing organizations may use locally preferred computing technique and architecture – by a set of recommendations and guidelines support by the research community so that the tools developed may be hosted, operated and further developed on any other distinct part of the shared infrastructure. In essence this could be summarized as supporting decentralizing technical approaches to build solutions by finding methodological consensus on an organizational level.

Interedition favors a decentralized approach: decentralized as to where the tools may be build, decentrialized as where they may be operated. To make this possible, Interedition seeks to formulate recommendations for protocols for interoperability of tools. In this way the specifics of implementation is free to local builders, but the general interoperability over a shared network can still be guaranteed.

To reach these goals Interedition opts for a radical different approach to initiating the development of solutions. Interedition does not want to prescribe how solutions should be build and by whom. Rather Interedition will identify key (or core) functionalities and will indicate which functionalities should interoperate over a shared infrastructure, without prior stating means and method. Interedition than asks its associated partners for a best solution trajectory. As developing progresses on local levels, Interedition only monitors and guards functional interoperability. It does not impose technical rules or requirements which are best left to local cooperating developers.

As usability is a general issue to the existing solution. A major role for Interedition monitoring the cooperation between the associated partner will be in consideration to unbiased and independent usability tests. In this respect Interedition will be the first initiative that lets development of tools interact with intended end users (meaning non technical oriented literary scholars) right from the outset. This direct involvement of end users monitored by Interedition in the form of concrete usability studies conducted by an independent associated partner will guard usability for the indented community of end users at a maximum level.