Introduction: This article explores the potential use of data-driven methods to visualise and interpret the impact of Western efforts to influence Cold War dynamics using a covert book distribution programme. Based on a documentary corpus connected to the 2013 book by Alfred Reisch, which documented efforts by the CIA to disseminate books in the Soviet Bloc in the period 1956-1971, the authors use the Tableau Public platform to re-assess information science methods for researching historical events. Their analysis suggests that books distributed did not tend to have a more obvious political slant, but were more likely to have a broader universalist outlook. While it skirts around some of the limitations of visualization (highlighted elsewhere by Drucker and others) it offers a solid introduction to the benefits of a data-driven approach to a general audience.
Introduction: Digital Literary Studies has long engaged with the challenges in representing ambiguity, contradiction and polyvocal readings of literary texts. This book chapter describes a web-based tool called CATMA which promises a “low-threshold” approach to digitally encoded text interpretation. CATMA has a long trajectory based on a ‘standoff’ approach to markup, somewhat provocatively described by its creators as “undogmatic”, which stands in contrast to more established systems for text representation in digital scholarly editing and publishing such as XML markup, or the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). Standoff markup involves applying numbers to each character of a text and then using those numbers as identifiers to store interpretation externally. This approach allows for “multiple, over-lapping and even taxonomically contradictory annotations by one or more users” and avoids some of the rigidity which other approaches sometimes imply. An editor working with CATMA is able to create multiple independent annotation cycles, and to even specify which interpretation model was used for each. And the tool allows for an impressive array of analysis and visualization possibilities.
Recent iterations of CATMA have developed approaches which aim to bridge the gap between ‘close’ and ‘distant’ reading by providing scalable digital annotation and interpretation involving “semantic zooming” (which is compared to the kind of experience you get from an interactive map). The latest version also brings greater automation (currently in German only) to grammatical tense capture, temporal signals and part-of-speech annotation, which offer potentially significant effort savings and a wider range of markup review options. Greater attention is also paid to different kinds of interpretation activities through the three CATMA annotation modes of ‘highlight’, ‘comment’ and ‘annotate’, and to overall workflow considerations. The latest version of the tool offers finely grained access options mapping to common editorial roles and workflows.
I would have welcome greater reflection in the book chapter on sustainability – how an editor can port their work to other digital research environments, for use with other tools. While CATMA does allow for export to other systems (such as TEI), quite how effective this is (how well its interpretation structures bind to other digitally-mediated representation systems) is not clear.
What is most impressive about CATMA, and the work of its creator – the forTEXT research group – more generally, is how firmly embedded the thinking behind the tool is in humanities (and in particular literary) scholarship and theory. The group’s long-standing and deeply reflective engagement with the concerns of literary studies is well captured in this well-crafted and highly engaging book chapter.
[Click ‘Read more’ for the full post!]
Introduction: Processing XML flows has sometimes been a complicated affair traditionally, and XProc was designed to standardise and simplify the process by using declarative XML pipelines to manage operations. This blog post by Gioele Barabucci presents conclusions from a meeting in late 2017 of the XProc 3.0 working group, exploring the latest emerging version of the standard and the kinds of challenges it will overcome.