CTI Textual Studies

Annual Report 1995-1996

1. Introduction

The year 1995-96 has been marked by staff changes on one hand and a strengthening of existing activities on the other hand. There was a substantial increase in the number of visits we made to new universities and the World Wide Web site has been extensively re- developed. The year was also marked by a number of changes in members of staff. At the end of September 1995 Marilyn Deegan left the Centre to take up a chair in electronic library research at De Montfort University. Dr David Womersley, a fellow of Jesus College and a member of the English Faculty, was appointed the academic director of the Centre. Stuart Lee resigned as deputy director having made himself available to Michael Popham and Michael Fraser for advice and assistance. In August 1996 Michael Popham resigned as Centre Manager to begin work in his new appointment as Head of the Oxford Text Archive. Michael Fraser became Centre Manager and a new research officer was appointed in August to commence work in October 1996.

2. Building knowledge

The unique position of the Centre within the newly-formed Humanities Computing Unit at Oxford University results in an extensive sharing of knowledge between the individual parts of the Unit (Oxford Centre for Humanities Computing, Oxford Text Archive, British National Corpus as well as a number of smaller projects). This sharing of knowledge was epitomised, for example, in the survey which the CTI Centre undertook on behalf of the British National Corpus in April 1996. The survey results will be used both to guide the future work of the BNC and also to indicate the level of computer-aided teaching in linguistics, one of the disciplines supported by the Centre.

A considerable amount of information gathering took place in preparation for a new edition of the Centre's Resources Guide. This resulted in an updating of existing entries. The many new resources which are to be included indicates the significant growth which has taken place in computer-based humanities resources. We have increased the software holdings of the Centre by soliciting evaluation and demonstration copies of a significant number of resources to appear in the Guide and by co-operating with the Oxford Centre for Humanities Computing to increase the shared software collection for selected areas supported by the Textual Studies (especially film and media studies, modern literature, and philosophy). Each issue of Computers & Texts contained at least two detailed reviews of relevant digital resources.

3. Information through publishing

During this year the Centre published three issues of Computers & Texts. The number of pages increased substantially to twenty-eight per issue (an average of 18,000 words per issue). The large majority of articles and reviews were unsolicited and submitted by contributors from the UK, continental Europe and North America. The popularity of Computers & Texts was increased by the commencement of an online edition in March 1996 and mirrored by the Chorus Humanities Project (Canada).

The online edition of the Resources Guide was updated throughout this period, with the addition of new entries and the maintenance of existing entries (especially the sections on electronic texts and text analysis). A substantial amount of effort was spent in reviewing the current print edition, and gathering together entries for a new edition to be published in print and online.

In March 1996 the Centre issued the second in its series of Occasional Publications, Computers & Teaching in the Humanities (ed. Michael Popham & Lorna Hughes), the proceedings of the Computers and Teaching in the Humanities conference organised by the Centre in 1994. The Centre also collaborated with the Office for Humanities Communication to publish the seventh in its series of publications, Beyond the Book: Theory, Culture and the Politics of Cyberspace.

Michael Popham and Michael Fraser contributed significant essays on text retrieval and analysis, and computer-assisted theology to a new edited work, New Technologies for the Humanities (Bowker-Saur, 1996). Michael Popham wrote a chapter describing case studies of multimedia in the classroom for a new ITTI book, Multimedia for Academic Use and Michael Fraser contributed a 3,000 word essay on computers in literary studies to the journal of the Council for College and University English. Michael Fraser also contributed a guide to digital resources for film studies (also placed online) to a work published by Oxford's European Centre for Humanities Research. David Womersley reviewed Editions and Adaptations of Shakespeare (Chadwyck-Healey) for the Multimedia section of the Times Higher Education Supplement.

4. Supporting online

The CTI Textual Studies' WWW site continued to expand during 1995/96. The Resources Guide was maintained together with the Centre's annotated index of learning resources on the Internet. During the year two complete issues of Computers & Texts were published online resulting in an increase in our subscription list, unsolicited contributions, and extremely positive feedback. A database of 194 computer-based humanities projects in the UK, gathered by the OHC, was converted for browsing and searching on the Centre's web site. The Centre continued to make use of the function of online forms, both for the BNC survey (mentioned in §2) and for the registration form for DRH96 (see §7). The membership of the Centre's Mailbase list increased to over 400 members world-wide. The list was used by the Centre to announce forthcoming events, new publications, additions to the WWW site, as well as for appropriate announcements on behalf of third parties.

5. Giving help and advice

Enquires to the Centre by email and telephone decreased within this period. This corresponded with an intentional policy to reduce the number of direct enquiries by providing quality information in electronic and printed form. The enquiries continued to range from those of a more general (but subject-specific) nature to those enquiring about a particular application. The Centre has seen a general rise in the number of enquiries coming from institutions' computer-support departments on behalf of academic departments. A significant proportion of enquiries now come from the new universities or those seeking university status. The policy of the Centre is to make an initial response to an enquiry within two days and, if necessary, a more substantial response within ten days. The vast majority of enquiries are answered by email (including enquiries which initially come via the telephone) which allows for a continued dialogue between the Centre and the enquirer.

6. Meeting people

The Centre made twelve visits to faculties and departments around the UK. The institutions varied from old, established universities through to colleges of higher education and affiliated colleges. As a result of a survey of theology departments undertaken in the previous year we were invited to give presentations with a greater theological content than in previous years. The visits from which we felt recipients gained the most tended to be at smaller institutions which had little experience of and, on occasions, little institutional support for, the integration of computing applications into teaching. A typical visit tended to be a full day with a mixture of presentations on particular aspects of digital resources to teach the disciplines we support together with demonstrations or hands-on sessions with specific applications. The audience nearly always tended to be members of a mixture of departments even on the few occasions when we were asked initially to speak only to a single department (we prefer to cover as many of the disciplines we support as possible in a single visit).

We try to exhibit and/or present at conferences which are subject-specific as well as those dealing with educational technology. This has often proved a fruitful means of meeting academics within the Centre's constituency and often leads to an invitation to make an official visit to the institution. Conferences where the emphasis is on technology rather than the discipline gives us the opportunity to meet with members of CBL units and others whose job it is to advise academics within the institution.

There was a steady stream of visitors to the Centre throughout the year. Many were drawn from overseas including a delegation of rectors and pro-vice chancellors from a number of universities in Russia. Most visitors came either to discuss particular applications, such as text analysis tools or the use of multimedia, or to seek advice concerning a proposed project. Apart from being able to give practical advice the Centre was continually able to act as a central hub bringing individuals and groups together with other like-minded parties (including potential publishers).

7. Running workshops and conferences

Between August 1995 and July 1996 we were involved in the organisation of two major conferences and six workshops. The Computers and Teaching in the Humanities conference held at Royal Holloway was the final in the series of CATH conferences. Its successor proved to be the auspicious Digital Resources for the Humanities conference held at Somerville College at which the Centre played a significant role in the organization, selection of papers, and running of the conference (including the presenting and chairing of papers). In May the Centre assisted in the running of a one day workshop, 'Beyond the Classroom' which looked at the increasingly significant topic of computer-assisted distance learning.

The workshops run by the Centre dealt either with the generic application of computers to teaching (such as creating World Wide Web pages for teaching) or a detailed view of the use of computers in a specific discipline. Running two of the workshops back to back allowed delegates to come from further afield and remain in Oxford for both workshops.

8. Working with TLTP

There are only a limited number of TLTP projects relevant to the subject areas covered by the Centre. With varying degrees of success we made some considerable effort to obtain the few packages we felt required evaluation on behalf of our constituency. We were pleased to be invited to represent a non-TLTP CTI Centre on the new TLT Support Network's Consultancy Group.

9. Promoting quality teaching

The Centre did not run any TQA-related workshops in this year since the bulk of the subjects we represent will not be assessed until after the year 2000. We circulated information about the Fund for the Development of Teaching and provided advice to subsequent enquirers.

10. Collaborating with others

The Centre provided detailed advice for two applications made to the JISC Technology Applications Programme (JTAP). Whilst the larger of the two projects made it through to the second stage of the process, the smaller project was successful in obtaining the funding requested to provide online seminars for the teaching of literature.

The Centre continues to collaborate with other humanities computing projects both on local and international levels. The Centre worked closely with other projects within the Oxford Humanities Computing Unit including the Oxford Text Archive, the British National Corpus, and the Canterbury Tales Project. The Centre maintained strong contacts with humanities computing centres at Kings College London, Glasgow, Princeton, Brown, Virginia, and Toronto universities. Computers & Texts is now mirrored by the Chorus humanities project at McGill University and discussions commenced with the co-ordinator on a mirror of the Centre's Guide to Digital Resources.

The Centre Manager served on the Committee of the British Computer Society's Electronic and Multimedia Publishing Specialist Group and was elected as its chair during this period.

11. Evaluating our effectiveness

We continued to evaluate workshops through the use of questionnaire forms and we have a policy of requesting written feedback from the contact at an institution visited by the Centre. Feedback received from readers of the Centre's publications and World Wide Web pages is retained. The Research Officer attended a CTI workshop on evaluation procedures which led to the development of the Centre's strategy for evaluating its services and products.

Addendum A: Most significant activity

During 1995-96 the Centre's newsletter, Computers & Texts, substantially expanded in size and breadth of coverage. A programme of calls for articles and reviews and publication deadlines for each issue resulted in a number of significant contributions from both the UK and further afield. It was useful, for example, to have been able to publish both a review of a major CD-ROM product and a detailed response from the publisher in the same issue. We were particularly pleased to be able to create electronic editions of Computers & Texts which substantially increased its readership, and had the added value of colour images, live hypertext links within articles, and an easy means by which readers could supply feedback. The availability of the publication on the Chorus Humanities Project server was considered to be of mutual benefit to the CTI Centre and to Chorus who both aim to supply high quality online resources to the humanities community.

HTML Author: Michael Fraser
Document Created: 4 October 1996
Document Last Modified:

The URL of this document is http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/9596.html