BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS
Deegan, Marilyn and McCarthy, Willard. (Eds.). Collaborative research in the digital humanities. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. xii, 248 p. ISBN 9781 4094 1068 3. £55 (VAT excluded). Also available as an e-book in ePUB and PDF formats.
Just recently, I was involved in helping my colleagues to prepare materials for a European project in digital humanities, because of some experience that I have gained through participation in other European projects. Thus, the book on collaborative research in this area seemed very appropriate to read and get slightly deeper acquainted with the area that I knew from the works of the colleagues in Lithuania and to some extent in Sweden. The discipline of digital humanities always was on the verge of the areas of my interest due to earlier work in bibliography and continuing involvement in a scholarly journal of book research (Knygotyra) that constantly deals with one or another of its aspects.
The book is produced as a Festschrift to Professor Harold Short who led the Centre for Computing in the Humanities (transferred to the Department of Digital Humanities) in King’s College London and who retired only two years ago. His collaboration skills are witnessed by a number of people who contributed to writing of this book from Canadian, Australian, American, Irish, Hungarian and foremost British Universities.
The main emphasis in the book is on collaboration in digital humanities field of study, which seems to be quite evident as its nature requires a wide variety of competences to be brought together. However, all those who tried to set up collaboration team know that it is not easy at all even if all conditions are met, especially when the team involves people with different value systems. Some of the tensions of such collaborative groups are discussed in this collection. I read chapter 2 No job for techies: technical contributions to research in the digital humanities with interest quite understanding the problem of a techie and only surprised that the situation is usually reversed in big technological projects where social scientists are regarded as an alien and supplementary presence. Other challenges of working in interdisciplinary teams are discussed by Melissa Terras in chapter 13 (Being the other: interdisciplinary work in computational science and humanities.)
All in all the book consists of thirteen chapters and an interview with John Unsworth who is a prominent figure in the community of digital humanities and Text Encoding Initiative consortium as well as a recent and long serving Dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The interview focused on the experience and future perspectives of collaboration within the field of digital humanities and the prospects of development of this field of study in general.
All the chapters are devoted to interesting challenges, such as authorship issues, usage of standards, crowd sourcing the humanities, and mark-up of texts. I would like to mention chapter 11 (Human-computer interface / Interaction and the book: a consultation-derived perspective on foundational e-book research) written by a large group of authors (there are two personal names and titles of two research groups). This chapter sets some concepts that can be considered fundamental to any research related to e-books or even wider – to the modern book. It brings to the reader’s attention the relationship between a book and a text, a reader and a user of a book, the features that make a book what it is regardless of its format; and the aspects that are essential for differentiating types of books, namely, material, symbolic, and formal.
All in all I think that this book should find its way to the library and information science departments, especially, as John Unsworth thinks that these departments might supply competent researchers for digital humanities together with humanistic departments.