Review – Winterschool “Digitale Editionen – Masterclass” 2021

As you who follow us on our Twitter-Account may have noticed, I was one of the participants of the Winterschool 2021 at the BUW (Bergische Universität Wuppertal) “Digitale Editionen – Masterclass” (link to program and website). For me as #happynoob, this was no easy task and I thought about it a lot. When are you a experienced user? When do you really have “basic knowledge” and how do you define “basic knowedge”. And yes, I know, this is overthinking. I asked Sarah and she told me exactly the same thing: Are you overthinking? What will be the worst thing that could happen? They say no, big deal.

The previous experiences asked for the participation where: text annotation with XML, including XPath and basic XSLT, basic TEI knowledge and the main basics of digital text edition. I had never ever done any basic training, but I did some workshops (e.g. that one at London, where I dived into the magical world of TEI EpiDoc) and I talked a lot with our technical assistant managing our project data and so I felt prepared for this course – and I was really excited when I got accepted.

Thus, the week from 22. to 26.2.2021 was a very intense week full of new things and I told you in my last post that I definitely needed time to settle all the new learned things and tools somewhere in my brain.

On Monday, we started with discussions on Named Entities on various editions and linked open data, we heard an expert panel on open questions and strategies to cover all the problems. Tuesday was all about XSLT and I have to admit, I knew what XSLT “does” and why we need it, but – wow. This day was a real eye-opener for me and I am still processing some of the facts. It acutally led me back to the XML & Co – Tutorial of W3Schools I did ages ago as preparation for the London workshop I told you above. It is on my list to do that again, as reinforcement and as repetition… But you just cannot stay on top of every aspect of coding you ever learned, when you are not working continually with it. Like any spoken language will get rusty by not being spoken and trained, I discovered that XPath and XSLT were really hard things to process for me.
On Wednesday, we worked on XML-databases and XQuery. I never have done anything with XQuery. I knew of its existence – and that it is needed to work with XML data. But – and there is my first big applause for the organisers and the lecturers on all the topics – I could really catch up with those people already using and working with it and I could follow all the explanations and code examples. It triggered one of my most important needs when trying to learn anything related to “coding” – how does it work, why does this syntax work, how are we translating our questions and wishes into computer language.
Thursday was covering publication issues – various structures and architectures of online publications and editions – like the well-known TEI-Publisher. TEI stands for Text Encoding Initiative (see their website) and the TEI Publisher is an eXist-db application (click for more information on eXist, an open source XML database, and TEI Publisher). Basically, it provides a toolbox for online editions even for people without any special training in coding or whatever. It should be clear that – in case you are planning to do an online or digital edition – you will need technical support, but there are excellent possibilities to work on it even as non-programmer. If you check my London-Workshop post, we did work with EpiDoc – TEI for antique inscriptions – and EFES, standing for EpiDoc Front End Services, which is a custom and a platform for publication and search/indexing of EpiDoc files.
I really enjoyed the expert panel on various publication strategies and solutions for various DH projects. It was just the right mixture of new stuff and grounded discussion on problems, solutions, and tips and tricks, collected and presented on real life examples of editions and online databases.
Friday was our last day and used to tool showcasing. As archaeologist, I was especially drawn to the session on the DARIAH GeoBrowser ;).The possibility to align time and geographical area with a data sheet is really great and I am busy thinking how to include this into my work – teaching and presenting as well as using it for my own research.

So, as conclusion for this week, I can state the following:

PRO:

  • a lot of interesting input and excellent lecturers
  • good and vibrant examples, with good explanations
  • a really good group, mixed research areas and different aspects on online editions
  • expert panels and tool showcasing
  • free time – KUMO space bar, slack chat, good online etiquette
  • participants were given the opportunity to present their own work in the group, discussions with experts and lecturers on it – the best way of learning on the job!

CONTRA:

  • a lot of new things and a very demanding schedule – at least, Thursday and Friday were quite hard for me
  • issues on software installation – but this was already discussed in the feedback section

 

I learned a lot in this winterschool and I discoverend new interesting features and tools. I will certainly recommend the beginner schools and the masterclasses to all students or colleagues in my network who want to work with or are interested in digital editions. The program was great, a lot of different aspects and a really good atmosphere for working ans asking questions. 

And, on the purpose on my ongoing list on working from home, #academichomeoffice, I have to add some points especially concerning my workplace and my well-being:

  • a second monitor would be great when participating online courses on digital things
  • a quiet room – not my kitchen table – especially then, when there is family around you
  • eyedrops for my poor dried up eyes…

Homeoffice and working from home as well as joining online courses is great and we are doing good so far. I really never before found that much online that aligns with my research interests. So, one good thing in all that ongoing mess. But, still, I need to be more sensitive on my well-being when taking long hours before my laptop. And you all should to!

So, thank you for reading and if you have any comments on your experiences on online winter/summerschools or workshops, please tell us!

Stay healthy and stay safe – Astrid

 


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