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"[Notes for a] Position Statement on Digital Research and Teaching" by Gabriel Egan

me: Prof of Sh. Studies (so my specialismn is writing) and I have been paperless for 10 years, editor of NOS, NTF (and my work as an NTF person is in training a research student to be a paperless tutor)

(Dave's opening question: is it just enough to digitize stuff to make it more accessible -- nobody agonized over nurturing the printing press). COME BACK TO THIS

Content as Data, Data as Content -- in English Literary studies we've had this debate nbefore been here before with the New Bibliography (used betaradiography to study watermarks, machines to collate books for stop-press variants). COME BACK TO THIS

* What do I know about?

* Using digital texts in research and teaching

* Introducing digital techniques to undergraduate courses in English Literature. My National Teaching Fellowship from the HEA was largely based on this work.

* Introducing digital techniques to researching Shakespeare's texts and theatre history. I've published on this and am one of the general editors of the New Oxford Shakespeare edition published later this year that radically redraws the boundaries of the canon based on such research.

* Hugh Craig and Jonson's EMO at Oxford Text Archive in 1994

* In English Literary Studies, the big developments are MLA-IB and OED CD-ROMS in the late 1980s, LION (EXPAND ABBREVS.) and EEBO/ECCO in the late 1990s and (in the UK) JHT now

* Before LION and EEBO, the only way to study or research English Literature was on paper (AND PROJECT GUTENBERG). What's wrong with that:

* Only works in print could be studied by students (dependence on publisher's whims; paying publishers for out-of-copyright texts)

* The range of materials to be studied is curtailed by book purchasing considerations

* Only researchers in rich universities or capital cities could study out-of-print works


* What we can now do as teachers because of LION and EEBO

* Courses can range over virtually everything ever published

* Shift the interest away from criticism towards self-directed exploration of primary materials. (Theory IS driven by economics -- New Criticism and post-war US)

* Begin to explore searching of large-text corpora and data-mining (no need to get very fancy on this: size and completeness of corpus is much more important than fancy tools)

* Get students looking how texts were first seen by their readers (old typefaces, old spelling)

* Distant Reading


* Unforeseen consequences of mass digitization of journals and books (eg Google Books)

* Relative increase in journal articles used by students, decrease in books

* Use of books in snippet form -- serious harm to appreciation of full argument



* What we can now do in research because of LION and EEBO

* Authorship attribution by computational stylistics

* New Oxford Shakespeare


* Obstacles to research using LION and EEBO/ECCO

* For LION we rely on ProQuest and they've broken it

* EEBO/ECCO is expensive outside UK and JHT is UK-only


* Things UK HE should be doing:

* JHT actually is doing a lot of things I think should happen (like image analysis and API and variant spelling analysis)

* Maybe try adding some extra manual tagging to existing datasets (TCP?) as Mueller says.

* Getting what we have digitized out there at lowest cost, let the users makes the collections and websites

* Getting interested those who don't see the value of the digital to literary-historical studies (as I'm doing with my Travelling Roadshows)

* Helping students to collect digital texts like they collect books: this is NOT something we should encourage them to leave to 'the cloud' as they do with music.

* What are we getting wrong?

* Thinking that it takes big changes in our practices and theories to make pedagogy and research digital -- it just takes small things like digitizing all the books and getting used to using the rough-and-ready digital texts.

* Thinking in terms of 'projects' around literary topics: just make the digital realm as full of texts as the paper realm and let the tutors and researchers get on with it

* Social media is at best irrelevant and most probably positively harmful to students and tutors in my field of English Literature (18 year olds are narcissistic enough, reading is the way to be less introspective, more in touch with the wider world of deep thoughts)

* In English Literature, everything .but the 20th century is out of copyright so we should not be using paper at all to teach this subject

* Not making new front-ends or aggregations. Don't expect users to leave their work on your site (annotations) as the lack of an effective archive mechanism means that this work is necessarily lost.

* Forget one-stop portals except where you've genuinely covered the whole of something (like EEBO have all books up to 1700 or LION having all English Literature). I don't see value in "Creating virtual collections"

* Possibly teach the more advanced students computer programming, else they're relying on other people's tools that might easily disappear (same as 'the cloud' problem with texts)


Q&A with CTL at Columbia about their undergraduate course on Digital Literacy (= Competency)

Q. What constitutes failing your course.

A. Hmm (couldn't really answer)

Reflection: They didn't make a good case that Digital Literacy even exists. The US universities don't benefit from the system of external examiners and in this case don't seem to have thought hard enough about academic rigour. If you don't know what failure looks like you aren't really teaching.


Adam Crymble of the Digital History Research Centre at University of Hertfordshire

Excellent account of teaching History with digital methods, including teaching students to use Python to count occurrences of words in texts.