A methodological rapprochement: Finding common ground between textual and historical editing

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Digital scholarly editing entails an iterative and reciprocal process of scholarly activities like selection, modeling, and classification. These activities are generally carried out by combining long-established traditional textual scholarship methods and digital tools; the exact configuration of tools and methods varying per edition project. Accordingly, creating a digital edition requires a diverse skill set that includes domain knowledge, and methodological as well as technical know-how. As a result, the question "what (and how) do we teach students of digital scholarly editing?" continues to engross practitioners and educators alike. By lack of a conclusive answer and in view of time constraints, universities and research institutions typically resort to an ad hoc approach of teaching students just enough to be able to work with the prevailing text modelling technologies like TEI XML. Without devaluing the important role of TEI for the text editing community, this strategy generally overlooks the methodological, fundamental way of thinking about texts and about representing texts digitally.
In this paper, we argue that learning how to represent and discuss the methodology of digital text editing is in fact the most important element of any educational program. This becomes evident if we look at the concept of Data Scopes (Hoekstra and Koolen, 2018; Hoekstra et al. 2018) which offers historians who work with digital sources a framework to make every step in their research process explicit and transparent. "A data scope," Hoekstra and Koolen write, "is designed to mediate the process of knowledge creation and representation as well as keep track of data elaborations and enhancements" (2018). Considering that the scholarly workflow of a textual scholar is in many ways similar to that of a digital historian, we take the concept of data scopes as a point of departure and examine its application to the discipline of textual scholarship. We assert that by foregrounding the methodological aspects of digital text editing, we may overcome the traditional boundaries between the disciplines of textual scholarship and historical documentary editing that – against general expectations – have continued to prevail in the digital paradigm. Adopting the data scopes method for scholarly editing will thus initiate a rapprochement between historical research and textual scholarship that – like any rapprochement – is mutually beneficial. Conceptualising the editorial workflow as a set of subsequent transformations of textual data will help scholarly editors to describe explicitly and transparently the methods and techniques used in their work. As a result, it becomes easier to replicate, reproduce, evaluate, critique, discuss, and learn from each other's methods. This will, in turn, contribute to the establishment of a coherent set of methodological principles of digital editing and promote the teaching and training of future scholarly editors.

Hoekstra, Rik and Marijn Koolen. 2018. "Data scopes for digital history research". In: Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, vol. 52, issue 2. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01615440.2018.1484676
Hoekstra, Rik, Jan Burgers, Sebastiaan Derks, Marijke van Faassen, Marijn Koolen and Ida Nijenhuis. 2018. "Methodologische vernieuwing en bronnenkritiek in het digitale tijdperk – 2018-2023". DOI: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.23812.01928


ConferenceESTS 2022: Histories of the Holograph. From Ancient to Modern Manuscripts and Beyond
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
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