What is ATNU?

Animating Text at Newcastle University (ATNU) is a research project that explores new frontiers at the cross-roads between traditional scholarly textual editing, digital editing, digital humanities and computer science.

ATNU connects the original, deep, historical research from the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, the School of Arts and Cultures, the School of Modern Languages, and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, with the transformational research of the Digital Institute. The intention is to share expertise and intellectual resources and to work to deliver ambitious, future-facing research that will nurture largescale collaborative projects. What we are proposing, in short, is nothing less than a wholescale re-examination of what a ‘text’ is.

By having humanities researchers and computer scientists working side by side, ATNU wants to explore how digital technology can complement the print edition, exploring different ways of understanding, explaining, and experiencing text as mobile, variable, adaptable, performable, while also re-imagining the reading experience itself ─ and to develop and test the software necessary for this. We are interested in the story of text, from spoken word, to manuscript, to copy of manuscript (maybe by someone other than author), to typesetter, to manuscript proof corrections, to printed text (perhaps by someone other than author), to printed book, to bookseller, to reader, and then, perhaps, back to a manuscript copy by a reader from the printed text, and back to the reading aloud of the text, this time from the printed book or a manuscript copy from a printed book.

ATNU wants to create new avenues of research in Digital Scholarly Editing and the Digital Humanities. The collaboration between humanities researchers and computer scientists will explore 'live' research questions raised by pre-1860 editing projects.

Why pre-1860 texts?

In these earlier periods the characteristics of manuscript and the printed book (and their relationship with one another) are fundamentally distinct from how they are in the period from the late nineteenth century to the present. Yet the ways in which pre-1860 texts are re-presented in current print and digital editions often fails to recover their vital, distinctive contexts (the relations between authors, copyists, printers, publishers and booksellers), and the way the printed page is meant to facilitate particular experiences. The dialogue between computing and humanities scholars will enable us to think creatively about how past ways of imagining the book can lead us to new ways of experiencing them. This will be a bold contribution to a vital debate not just about the future of the book, but also about the place of historically-focussed editorial scholarship in the story of the humanities.

Why use digital technologies?

Digital technologies have the potential to transform research, dissemination and engagement in the field of scholarly editing. Current efforts focussed around dissemination through websites are not realising the opportunities that could emerge from separating content from presentation, and nor are they fully exploiting new digital tools and techniques. These opportunities include:

  • using data analytics techniques for the automatic analysis of text, including tracing changes through revisions;
  • exploring methods of representing the underlying text that can make it more amenable to computational analysis and multiple forms of presentation;
  • investigating how to support and enhance annotation, including the use of ontologies and controlled vocabularies, and the support for enabling and analysing multiple editorial views over the same text.

What is scholarly editing?

Scholarly editing produces one of the key resources that makes possible work in the humanities: texts. It is a field that requires high-level, specialist skills ─ reading historical handwriting, analysing the production and circulation of manuscripts and printed texts, collating large numbers of variants in different versions. Increasingly it also demands expertise in digital technologies. The expectation of the international research community is that editions be made available online as well as in print, allowing for new kinds of interaction. At its most basic, any digital edition should have a search function and provide hyperlinks to other sources or commentary. Although these are useful tools, they barely scratch the surface of what a digital edition could be. Digital editions which merely offer a fac-simile of a printed book look backwards and seek to replicate the book in ways that weaken the digital experience. If you want to know what we mean by digital scholarly editing then head over here. If you want to see examples of digital editions already published, then have a look at the Catalogue of Digital Editions.