1. Active Group Members
2. Prototypes and Publications
3. Activities

To understand how digital textuality will affect reading practices, the Textual Studies group (TS) will document the essential features of historical textual forms and their associated human practices. TS assumes the veracity and the value of D.F. McKenzie’s notion of the “sociology of the text.” McKenzie defines “text” as “invariably the product of human agency in complex and highly volatile contexts” where such products include “manuscripts, films, recorded sound, static images, computer generated files, and even oral texts.” The study of this comprehensive form of text includes “the creation and communication of meaning” (4) as well as the products themselves. In short, when informed by McKenzie’s concept of the “sociology of the text,” textual studies includes the cultural, artisanal, and professional practices prior to and inside the place of production, the text (product), and any relevant aspects of dissemination.

With this as our point of departure, TS combines close study of material artifacts with interpretive inquiry into human activities (Howsam 2006; McKitterick 2003; Loewenstein 2002). The same techniques of close reading and rigorous material study, long applied to print and manuscript, are extended to digital artifacts and online knowledge environments in all their multimedia forms (Liu 2007, 2004; Galey 2009; Kirschenbaum 2004b, 2002; also Manovich 2001). We bridge the study of print and digital texts to develop a technical vocabulary for describing the salient features of digital texts, in the comprehensive McKenzie-esque model. Our goal is to document, as far as possible, the best, worst, strangest, most and least likely, and most widely adopted form of text from the print era in order to provide a theoretical framework for implementing new knowledge environments, and for understanding overall changes in the human record. As far as time and available expertise allow, we are studying such artifacts as scrolls, newspapers, transcriptions of oral folktales, photographs, small-press periodicals, poems and plays in manuscript as well as in print, electronic literature, video games, multiple versions of films, and unpublished archival materials.

TS is currently working on what we hope will be our most prominent and enduring legacy, a knowledge-base entitled Architectures of the Book, or ArchBook. ArchBook is a peer-reviewed venue for publication of material devoted to textual studies.

During the third year of the INKE project, TS hosted a conference dedicated to work in our field of interest, entitled “Beyond Accessibility: Textual Studies in the 21st Century.” It was held at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC.

Also during the third year, TS members helped to share a collection of rare books with a UPEI history class. CBC covered the story and produced the following report:
“Sharing a Collection of 15th and 16th Century Books (2012)” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2012)

Active Group Members

  • Researchers: Past: Richard Cunningham, Wendy Duff, Alan Galey, Brent Nelson, Ray Siemens, Paul Werstine
  • Post-doctoral Fellows: Past: Paul Caton, Jon Bath, Scott Schofield
  • Graduate Research Assistants: Past: Gord Barentson, Robert Imes, Matthew Wells, Michael Choi, David Purdy, Rebecca Niles, Jenette Weber
  • Undergraduate Research Assistant: Past: Meaghan Smith

Prototypes and Publications

    • Architectures of the Book knowledge-base (Launch)


    • ArchBook Image Repository (Launch)


Activities 2009 – 2012

Year 1 goals for the TS team included a literature review and commencement of a reference resource to be known as Architectures of the Book (ArchBook). The literature review consisted of recent inquiries into textuality, and into the capabilities of electronic paper, e-books, and e-readers; in consultation with the rest of INKE it took the form of an annotated bibliography made available through Zotero. ArchBook was envisioned as a knowledge base to enable the theoretical framework for reconceptualizing “the book.” In our first attempt, we built and experimented with a new knowledge environment based on the eXtensible Text Framework (XTF). Our work with XTF led us to conclude that such an environment would require an unsustainable level of expert management. TS also collaborated with ID on an examination of changes in citation practice between print and digital media, and with UX on plans for studying humanities-based reading practices in situ, especially with an eye toward comparing ergotive and complex reading. In addition to producing a paper with ID on the evaluation of interfaces as a form of intellectual argument highlights of TS’s scholarly output for year 1 include the articles “Codex Ultor: Toward a Conceptual and Theoretical Foundation for New Research on Books and Knowledge Environments,” and “dis-Covering the Early Modern Book,” as well as conference papers in Canada, the US, and the UK.

In Year 2 TS began archival visits, consultation with archivists, specialist librarians and academics, and secondary literature, in an attempt to find oddities of print production (e.g. books shaped to reflect their content, books with moveable elements [flap books, volvelles, etc.]) that might inform the development of digital interfaces. As we suggested we would do in our planning document for that year, we sought ‘something that handles text as well [as could XTF] and [handled] images better’ so that we could build ArchBook to be supported without the need for a specialized manager. By mid-year, we opted for developing our own such environment. Concurrently, through Galey’s graduate teaching and feedback from TS members, we developed the model ArchBook entry, started soliciting scholars’ participation on the ArchBook editorial board, and starting discussing our editorial procedures. We added a blog to the ArchBook environment to facilitate a faster communication cycle (than can be achieved by a process that includes peer review) between TS and other ArchBook teams, and an image repository to provide raw material that is pre-approved for publication for both TS and the rest of INKE. Year 2 scholarly outputs from TS include the book chapter “Beyond Remediation: The Role of Textual Studies in Implementing New Knowledge Environments,” the article “How a Prototype Argues” (with ID), along with conference papers and invited presentations in Canada, the US, UK, and Europe.

In year 3 TS targeted research to inform the ID and the MP teams’ work on designing, modeling, and prototyping those elements of the scholarly edition intended to aid scholars in their use of same. Following the lead of the ID team, TS came to regard such elements as “affordances,” and developed its research accordingly, with emphasis placed on what scholarly editions enable readers to do with texts, rather than emphasizing what texts are. In this context, tables of contents, citations, finding aids, and representations of text (e.g. facing page collation) rose to the fore. Continuing work on ArchBook saw the development of a complete editorial process enabling us to move potential entries from submission through peer review and encoding to final publication in only three months, making the most of the opportunity for student engagement with scholarship, editorial theory, and such DH skillsets as database management, off-site access and file manipulation, encoding, and principles of design. All TS students and post-doc have also been included in planning and executing our “Beyond Accessibility: Textual Studies in the 21st century” conference. This conference has a total of 33 speakers presenting the work of at least 41 authors, from Europe, the UK, N. America, and New Zealand. We plan to publish a volume of the best work presented at the conference. Highlights of scholarly output to date include the articles “Contexts Built and Found: A Pilot Study on the Process of Archival Meaning-Making” and “Old Ways for Linking Texts in the Digital Reading Environment: The Case of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible,” as well as conference and invited papers in N. America, the UK, and Japan.