Posts Tagged ‘digital classics’

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Resource Review: Digital Loeb Classical Library

October 14, 2014

Recently I spent some time at the the University of Cincinnati Classics Library playing with their trial of the Digital Loeb Classical Library. This new subscription resource became available in mid-September. I’ll start with some commentary and screenshots on how the Digital Loeb works, and follow with some more big picture thoughts.

As a note, there are many older, out-of-copyright Loeb volumes that have been freely available in digitized versions for some time. E. Donnelly’s Downloebables first made them easily findable, and Ryan Baumann’s Loebolus offers an alternative format.  I also recently ran across a fun tumblr blog that collects snippets of some of the antique translations that appear in these older Loebs.

What Digital Loeb Does

When a user arrives at the Digital Loeb site, the search box is prominent, but there are also browse options available at the left.  The user is given the choice of browsing Author, Greek Works, Latin Works, or Loeb Volumes (arranged by number).

Home - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-02-37

Each volume can thus be approached through a table of contents page, which reproduces the print volume’s table of contents, except that each section heading is clickable, and one can also search within the entire volume.

Euripides, Cyclops. Alcestis. Medea - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-19-24

Although I’ve just begun to explore the site, two things have already become clear: the site’s aesthetic is fairly elegant and generally pleasant, and the overall structure of the site very closely replicates the print versions of the Loeb volumes. The site is giving me the clear message that this is a digitized version of the existing Loeb Classical Library, not a re-envisioning of the LCL for an internet environment.

Librarians always skip basic search boxes and go straight to Advanced Search, so I did that. It defaults to a Boolean structure, with two boxes connected by AND but the option to add more boxes, and to change to OR or NOT.  The fields available to search are: Author, Editor/translator, Front and back matter, Main text, Notes, Recto, Verso, Work Title, and DOI (Digital Object Identifier). (I once wrote an intro to DOIs, if you need a refresher on that.)

Advanced Search - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-06-36

Any of the fields can be searched using Greek characters, using a handy pop-up keyboard; this makes searches of the Greek text quite easy. The user can also select a period to limit the search chronologically (only by 100 year intervals, i.e. 600 BC – 500 BC, and note that one cannot select more than 1 period – are authors whose writing lives took place in two different centuries out of luck?)

I did a complicated Boolean search to try to identify a remembered quotation for a friend, and blogged about it last week.

Below are the results of a simple author search for Sophocles. Works display in alphabetical order, and one can ‘facet’ the search (narrow it further) using the left column in results (although in this case the choices are not particularly useful).  The one user experience problem I had using the Digital Loeb happened here – I found it not obvious how to get to the actual text of one of the works in the search results. I first clicked on Show Results Within under the entry and got nothing (since I had done an author search, not searched the text of the works). It turned out I needed to double-click on title of the work to get to the actual text.

Search Results Sophocles - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-08-19

Another aesthetic touch I really liked – the green line on the screenshot above, and the green edge of the digital page of Sophocles’ Antigone below, carrying on the color-coding of the print Loeb volumes.

Once inside a work, the Tools at the bottom of the page allow the user to search for words within that text, again using English or the pop-up Greek keyboard.

SOPHOCLES, Antigone search within- Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-12-16

Below are the results of a ‘search within’ for a specific Greek word.  Note that it seems as though there is not any sophisticated lemma searching going on here – the search engine can only do exact character matches (and ignores accent). So this is useful if you are trying to place a Greek quotation, but not useful if, for example, you wanted to investigate all discussions of “mother” in Antigone – for that, TLG would be the right resource.

Search Results meter in Antigone- Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-13-31

If you want to make these results printer friendly, they are very pleasing-looking. (In general it didn’t seem possible to print more than one page of a text at a time, but I might have missed a way to do this, so please correct me if I’m wrong!) In addition to printing a page/search result/etc., one can save it (to a personal account, discussed in more detail below), email it, or share it on social media.  I tested sending search results to twitter, and they were visible to those not currently subscribed to Digital Loeb (thanks, @s_margheim and @magistrahf!)  It’s also easy to change the font size, a nice touch for those of us quickly approaching ‘reading glasses age’.

Search Results printer friendly - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-14-49

To navigate within a text, the experience very closely replicates paging through the print volume.  One can move forward or back one page at a time using arrows on the page images, or go to a specific page using the box at the top right corner of the screen (see below).  There isn’t, as far as I found, any easy way to jump to a specific line number within the text you’re looking at, however. I wanted to get to line 1060 of Aeschylus’ Suppliants at one point, and found myself guessing what page it would be in the volume by seeing what page I was on and how many lines appeared per page.  It later occurred to me that it would have been faster to ‘search within’ the text for “1060,” but that seems like a silly workaround to have to resort to when navigating by line number is such a fundamental way of interacting with a text (including print Loebs!) Note that the Green “LCL 145” below is hotlinked and will take you to the table of contents for the volume – I probably would not have stumbled across this early on, but instead learned it from the Frequently Asked Questions page at the site.

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants nav to TOC - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-08-58

Happily, the footnotes in the texts do take advantage of the digital environment and pop up if one clicks on them:

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants footnotes - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-31-21

Several additional features are available to users who sign up to have an account. The only information one is asked for is name, email address, and a password, so presumably one could remain pseudonymous if one wished.  The web site did not mind that I was on guest wifi at the University of Cincinnati and only using a trial of the site; I was able to create a personal account with no trouble, using a gmail address. Account features include creating bookmarks, saving searches, and creating annotations. One simply highlights a word or phrase in the text and can add a note.

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants annotation - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-15-17

The ability to share one’s annotations with other account-holders, and especially the ability to create groups with which one can share, makes annotation an excellent teaching tool on a campus with a subscription: all students could be asked to set up accounts, and the instructor could share annotations with the group or ask them to share amongst themselves.

My Loebs - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-17-58

What Digital Loeb Does Not Do

The Digital Loeb does not do much if anything to advance the scholarly conversation around digital texts in classics. It’s a closed, subscription resource; as far as I can tell its texts cannot be downloaded for any purpose at all (for example, to do specialized scripted searches looking for patterns in style or content across texts, like Tesserae has done with Perseus texts). It hasn’t got lemma searching (like TLG). It hasn’t got grammatical or dictionary support for students (like Perseus). It’s not in dialogue with developing digital text projects involving multitext, annotation, or commentary (like Homer Multitext, the Digital Latin Library, Arethusa, Dickinson College Commentaries, and many other worthy projects I hope I don’t offend by not mentioning here). Now, was Digital Loeb required to do any of those things? Of course not. But is it appropriate to point out these limitations, and even mourn a lost opportunity? I think so. Interested in reading further commentary on these sorts of issues? See Greg Crane’s long essay from Feb. 2014 on the Digital Loeb in contrast with his vision of Open Philology; and another essay from Sept. 2014 now that Digital Loeb is available.

Should You Subscribe to Digital Loeb?

If you really like it, and you’re an individual, it is available at an individual price of $195 for the first year and $65 for each additional year.  You can figure out for yourself what it might cost to buy a full print set of Loebs and update as new volumes are released – my guess is you come out ahead even if you subscribe as an individual for 20 years! But there’s not any way for an individual to have trial access – you’d need to talk to a librarian, so if you’re not affiliated with an educational institution, that becomes tricky.  (If this is you, I am sure your local public library would be willing to apply for a free trial on your behalf, but I am sure many non-academic people would never think to ask.)

Pricing for institutions more complicated and less transparent, and one is encouraged to email directly for a quote for an individual library (or presumably consortium). Subscription and perpetual access plans are offered, which is nice for those with deep pockets and fatigue with the ‘annual subscription for digital resources’ problem. There is also a note that secondary schools are offered discounts for institutional pricing.  Anecdotally, what I have heard is “it’s expensive.”  What that means is of course highly variable.

If you’re a librarian reading this and pondering what your institution should do, it certainly makes sense to do a trial and beg, bribe, or threaten students (undergrads and graduate students) and faculty to give you feedback. I’d be most interested in hearing from students, plus faculty who teach the languages at the middle levels and/or have a special interest in pedagogy. My guess is a lot of people will like the Digital Loeb – it’s aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use, and lets you put the whole Loeb Library on your computer (maybe even in your hand – I wasn’t able to test it on a iPad, but I see no reason it wouldn’t work, and the effect would basically be an e-book – it’s just the right size for an iPad mini!). For the librarian, the choice is tricky – it’s a pretty product, but we mostly already get and will continue to get the print Loebs. Does the Digital Loeb add much but convenience and ease of finding passages? It doesn’t have lexical or grammatical tools; it does have quality modern translations, which the more digitally sophisticated Perseus or TLG lack. Does the price your institution has been quoted make this a good deal for you, or not?

 

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Research Workflow and Digital Texts

July 13, 2011

I continue to be interested in academic workflows in general, and how digital tools and texts are being incorporated (or not incorporated) into them.  I’ve written up a first draft of an essay on the project I and some colleagues did with Kindles in an English class this past spring, and am currently most struck by the responses of those students who struggled with the immateriality of a digital book.  Some students took to the Kindle like a duck to water, but others (in surveys) wrote of their disorientation within the e-book, because of their ingrained habit of dealing with books as material objects as well as content containers.

Two interesting essays I’ve read recently on this topic are available open-access:

Cull, Barry W., 2011. “Reading revolutions: Online digital text and implications for reading in academe, ” First Monday 16: 6, at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3340/2985

Hillesund, Terje, 2010. “Digital reading spaces: How expert readers handle books, the Web, and electronic paper,” First Monday 15: 4, at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2762/2504

A recent Institute of Classical Studies (London) Digital Classicist Seminar was not specifically focused on reading of digital texts, but took a broader approach to discussing the research practices of academics, and specifically classicists and archaeologists, among others.  Agiatis Benardou spoke on a project that conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 scholars as an attempt to understand their research workflows (as part of planning for a European project to create digital research infrastructure.) I haven’t had the time to listen to the audio of the seminar, which is available as a link, but the introduction, the tweets from the session and the slides available in .pdf all are quite interesting.

It’s a basic principle of librarianship that understanding the patron’s needs is paramount (Ranganathan, “Every reader his book,”), and it’s exciting to see that those developing digital research tools are first seeking to understand user needs and existing practices, before tool development even begins. While we can and do expect user behaviors to change as a result of new technologies – and some of my reluctant Kindle readers will probably figure out a way to feel at home with an e-book as they become more common – it’s also important to know where your users are, and not just where you want them to be going.

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E-Books for Learning Greek

April 4, 2011

I have started looking more seriously at texts for elementary Greek that can be used on the Kindle (and/or other e-book readers), in advance of a possible trial in a class this summer.  Here’s a list of resources I have found useful – do you have any to add? The following include texts available in Kindle format, and texts available as .pdfs – most e-book readers can deal with simply-formatted .pdf files, although their treatment of footnotes or multi-column pages can be, frankly, terrible. I have NOT included online-only texts (as at Perseus, TLG, etc.)

Hathi Trust

  • A scholarly e-book repository, it includes most out-of-copyright works (pre-1923) digitized by Google Books, plus additional titles post-1923 where Hathi staff have worked with publishers and authors to make works available to the public.
  • Search interface is very much like a library online catalog, so it’s easier to find a known title than when searching Google Books.
  • Note one can create a free account and make lists (“public collections“) of texts.  It would be useful to have such a list for important classical works, no?  Maybe in my copious free time (or yours).

Google Books

  • An alphabetical list of works selected by Crane and Babeu – Google Books Ancient Greek and Latin Texts Available as downloadable .pdf files.
  • Ditto, but US-access only. Requires a Google account to log in, and you must be in the US.
  • You can also search Google Books for specific titles, but good luck getting what you want in the first page of results – I’d try Hathi Trust first, myself, as the search interface is more sophisticated.

TextKit

  • Requires creation of an account (free), after which one can download .pdf files.
  • Includes out-of-copyright texts – this site dates to 2001, so the texts were hand-scanned before the advent of Google Books.
  • Greek texts library. There’s also Latin.

Downloebables

  • Best website name ever? Links to downloadable .pdf versions of out-of-copyright editions from the Loeb Classical Libraries.

Project Gutenberg

For purchase at Amazon (prices listed – they are generally modest).

One problem I have run into is that the Kindle cannot convert any documents larger than 25MB, and many .pdf files are larger than this.  The solution is to use Adobe Acrobat and break up the .pdf files into smaller units, which requires a) possession of Adobe Acrobat (the production software, not just the reader) and b) more work on the user end – a lexicon that’s divided into several chunks alphabetically is not as easy to use.

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Good Summary Article on Digital Classics/cist

March 22, 2011

Yesterday I read with interest Simon Mahoney’s article “Research communities and open collaboration: the example of the Digital Classicist wiki,” thanks to a recommendation from @paregorios (Tom Elliot).  It’s a fairly quick read and I feel like I have a better understanding of what the Digital Classicist wiki‘s history is, and what I might find it useful for in the future – better than I acquired after some random poking around on the site last summer, anyway.

One of the big topics the article raises is whether digital humanities is inherently collaborative and what technological structures can do to foster community.  This is an issue I’m interested in in general, especially because I see academia generally, and classics within the academy in particular, as very hierarchical disciplines that value tradition, and disciplines where much of the serious work is done solo (archaeologists are somewhat exceptional in this regard).  I thought about this idea when I talked about academia.edu and social networking for academics; I thought about this idea when we discussed crowdsourcing at THATCamp SE.  I’m thinking about this today, as my goal for this week is to get the wiki piece of the Ancient World Open Bibliographies project up and running, and the goal of that project is the building of a collaborative bibliography for the use of scholars and students.  How can I get collaborators?

As an aside, I was curious enough about the gender balance in digital classics – especially because of the recent spate of articles about gender imbalance among Wikipedia editors – to count the number of members listed at the Digital Classicist Wiki by gender.  (For first names I was uncertain about, I assumed they were female.)  The tally was 120 listed members, 80 of whom are male and 40 of whom are female; the four editors are male.  Not too shabby; recent reports suggest classics PhDs currently awarded are largely split 50-50 by gender, for context, but computer science remains a male-dominated field.

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Crowdsource Pleiades, Online Classical Atlas

January 24, 2011

Pleiades, the online classical atlas, is inviting the (scholarly) public to “adopt” a classical place for Valentine’s Day.  Tom Elliot at Horothesia writes:

Here are some examples of things you could do (many of them quickly) to enhance the content in Pleiades:

Here are some ways you could use links to Pleiades to enrich content elsewhere on the web

I’m trying to decide what place to adopt; since Pleiades only covers the Greek and Roman world, my favorite Bronze Age sites are not included.  (Ooh, I just thought of one for me – I’ll do Halieis!)  Surely you have a favorite, too?

I’m also writing to a couple of the faculty members I work with to suggest this as an assignment for their classes – even as an optional, extra-credit sort of assignment.  In Classics this semester there’s a 2000-level class in Classical Archaeology and a 4000-level class in Roman Cities, where the major semester assignment is to report on a specific place – this would fit right in to either, and since we lost a week at the start of the semester, syllabi are still in flux for many faculty.

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Tenure Track Job in Art/Classics/Digital Humanities at UGA

December 22, 2010

Posted this week: http://art.uga.edu/index.php?pt=1&id=657

Tenure Track Faculty Hire in Art History and Classics
Ancient Visual Culture
Digital Humanities Initiative
University of Georgia

The Lamar Dodd School of Art and the Department of Classics at the University of Georgia invite applications for a tenure­‐track, joint appointment of an assistant professor specializing in ancient visual culture and the reception of the classical tradition and skilled at integrating imaging technologies within his/her scholarship and teaching. Candidates should hold the Ph.D. in art history and present evidence of successful research and teaching in digital humanities. This appointment is part of an ongoing effort by the University of Georgia to build a significant digital humanities infrastructure involving faculty and facilities housed in various departments and collaborating with the Willson Center for the Humanities.

The successful candidate will be asked to teach undergraduate and graduate courses in ancient visual culture that are interdisciplinary in approach and that incorporate digital technology, allowing students to visualize the natural and built landscapes of the ancient past and study how that physical context impacted art, literature, philosophy, and other cultural endeavors. These courses will be cross-‐listed in both departments. The candidate must be committed to scholarship and demonstrate potential achievement in the discipline commensurate with the university’s research mission. S/He must have excellent communication skills and participate in committee work and other service to the undergraduate and graduate programs.

The Lamar Dodd School of Art, housed in a new, state­‐of­‐the­‐art building, has 55 full-‐time faculty members, including 8 art historians, and enjoys a close working relationship with the nearby Georgia Museum of Art. The classics faculty numbers 13, with specialties in Greek, Latin, classical archaeology, ancient history, late antiquity, linguistics, and the classical tradition. Both units are part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

This position will be available August 2011. The final application deadline for full consideration is January 31, 2011. Applicants should submit a detailed letter summarizing their qualifications, curriculum vitae, names and contact information for three references, an example of scholarship, and other supporting materials to

Chair, Art History and Classics Search Committee
Lamar Dodd School of Art, The University of Georgia
270 River Road Athens GA 30602‐7676
http://www.art.uga.edu and http://www.classics.uga.edu
706-542-1511

The Franklin College of Arts & Sciences, its many units, and the University of Georgia are committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty and students, and sustaining a work and learning environment that is inclusive. Women, minorities and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. The University of Georgia is an EEO/Afirmative Action Institution.

Please feel free to circulate widely. (I am not involved in the search personally, except as an interested onlooker!)

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Yes, Homer on your iPads, Please!

September 20, 2010

I am turning in a grant application today – a grant for funds to purchase a pool of Kindle e-book readers on behalf of the digital library I work in, to be used in classes experimenting with digital reading, writing, and researching using e-book readers.  Our pilot class is in the English department, but I’m hoping to interest some Classics faculty in the project if it gets funded.  So the recent buzz-generating Chronicle of Higher Ed article about the e-book reader “discouragement” (not a ban!) at St. John’s College in Annapolis has kept popping up while I’ve been writing.

Here’s what I sent to  my work list-serv when someone circulated the article:

Just for the record, y’all, Digital Classics is a large and growing field, and the massive and esteemed collection of digital texts of ancient Greek (Thesaurus Linguae Gracae; http://www.tlg.uci.edu/ which has core texts available to the public and a full collection to which UGA Classics subscribes) was begun in 1972!!  And you can read it on your iPad.

If our grant is funded, I plan to be embedded in the upper-level English class that’s the pilot (Environmental Literature – should be interesting!) to experience and observe how (if!) reading a text – and we’ll be sampling novels, essays, and poetry as well as criticism – differs when an e-book reader is the medium.  We’ll also look to see if the classroom dynamic changes when all the course texts are available on a single device everyone brings to class, allowing easier consultation and cross-referencing.  I’ll also be working to get all course readings available either through reserves, through free online text for out-of-copyright works (while consulting with the faculty member to choose appropriate editions) or by linking students to texts for sale.   (And why aren’t we asking for iPads?  Because while they are way cool, they also cost more than three times what the new Kindles do, and for literature, I don’t see much benefit to their added capabilities, i.e. color, easier video, etc.)