CTI Textual Studies

Annual Report 1996-1997

1. Gateways for information

The CTI Centre for Textual Studies has continued to expand and to improve the range of resources made available online. There are now a total of five complete issues of Computers & Texts available online together with colour screenshots and hypertext links. The Guide to Digital Resources has been redesigned and earlier resource entries updated or removed. We recognise that the Guide will never be finished, as its strength lies in it remaining current with frequent updating and revision, but the table of contents gives some idea of the sheer number of digital resources which are currently available for the subjects we support. This year we have made available a selection of the queries we have received over the past twelve months and the answers we provided. It is of great assistance to us and to our community to be able to point people to an appropriate page complete with hypertext links. It is our aim to redevelop the Web site further to ensure that the main resources we make available are fully integrated. Ideally there should be links from Questions & Answers to the Guide to Digital Resources and then to reviews in Computers & Texts. The addition of a search engine to our site this year now allows users to fully search all or selected sections of our online resources. We are currently collaborating with the editor of the re-launched HUMBUL information gateway to achieve this.

2. Supporting our constituency

During this period we developed a new format for two of our workshops which we termed the ‘Open Workshop’; a format which retained the informality of an open day but also allowed for the day to be theme-based, and to centre on the distribution of tutorial documentation for specific applications. Both days, on text analysis software and multimedia resources, proved popular with a significant percentage of the participants attending from library or learning support units. The Centre continues to organise events in collaboration with other projects and services. This year, in collaboration with the JTAP Virtual Seminars project we organised a multi-disciplinary workshop on using internet tools for teaching the humanities. The workshop evidently fitted a niche within the sphere of computer-assisted teaching and learning since it was oversubscribed threefold and was consequently re-run later in the year. Workshops were also organised in collaboration with the eLib On-Demand Publishing in the Humanities project and with the participation of the CTI Centre for History. The latter allowed the Centre, with the aid of the CTI Centre for History, to bring expertise in using text analysis tools to literary historians who may not have considered themselves as part of the Centre’s usual constituency.

The highlight of this year, however, was the one-day conference on computer-assisted film and drama studies which we held in March. The event attracted over sixty participants, with speakers drawn from individual projects and support services. Selected proceedings from the film & drama conference, together with specially commissioned essays, will be published in a special issue of the journal Literary & Linguistic Computing edited by Michael Fraser and Sarah Porter. It was partly as a result of contacts made at the conference that the ‘Digital Resources for the Humanities 1997’ conference presented a good proportion of papers devoted to the performing arts. The overall success of the day and the positive feedback received has convinced us to include a one-day discipline-specific conference within our annual programme of events.

The Centre made a total of seven visits and presentations to UK HE institutions during this period. The visits consisted of full-day or half-day workshops. We attempt to target our full-day visits to as many departments as possible within the faculty of arts/humanities. To be successful in this endeavour requires the assistance (and often the source of the invitation) of an IT support person, subject librarian, or, of course, the dean of faculty. Over the year we have developed a format by which we will offer a half-day workshop to single departments, usually consisting of two or three presentations on the theme of ‘Digital Resources for the Teaching of n’ where n is the subject in question. Drama and Theology were two such subjects covered this year. Maintaining contact with individual members of departments has assisted them and us in disseminating, for example, information about possible collaborators for TLTP 3 proposals.

The Centre has been active in attending a wide range of conferences whether subject-specific, humanities computing, or IT-support events. The month of April epitomised the diversity of events. Whilst Sarah Porter hosted a CTI exhibition and poster session at Hypertext’97, Michael Fraser gave a paper and hosted an exhibition at the British Comparative Literature conference, having just returned from the Edinburgh International Science Festival where he participated in a exhibition aimed at a public audience of humanities computer-based applications.

3. Teaching for the twenty-first century

The Centre for Textual Studies, as part of Oxford University’s Humanities Computing Unit, is active in the promotion of C&IT for learning and teaching throughout the University’s humanities faculties. During the course of the year staff have run a number of training sessions for both staff and graduate students (who are often employed as teaching assistants). Sarah Porter serves on the OxTalent committee whose brief is the promotion of technology-based learning and teaching throughout the University. The HCU, including the Centre for Textual Studies, also makes contributions to the undergraduate and postgraduate teaching of the University particularly, but not only, at Masters level. The Centre plans to offer or be involved in the teaching of skills-based teaching for the faculties of English, Modern Languages, and Theology. The Centre has participated in courses offered to the University (and further afield) by the HCU itself. These have included a four-part weekly course on the creation and use of digital texts, attended by a mixture of staff and students, and a three-day text encoding summer school, which attracted an international group of participants .

4. Achieving synergy

Within Oxford University the CTI Centre for Textual Studies continues to play an essential role in the work of Oxford’s Humanities Computing Unit and works towards fulfilling the mission of the HCU to ‘facilitate and promote access to a variety of high quality scholarly electronic resources for use in research and teaching’. The expertise of the Centre is also valued by many of the humanities faculties in Oxford. It has always been viewed as a distinct advantage that the Centre is based within the Humanities Computing Unit rather than within a single subject department, allowing us the freedom to address the needs of all the disciplines we support within and external to Oxford without prejudice.

Our role within the HCU as well as our place within the CTI allows the Centre to collaborate in a number of ways with different projects and initiatives. The Centre has supplied consultancy as well as co-organising a workshop for one of the eLib projects relevant to the Centre’s subject areas (On-Demand Publishing in the Humanities). Partly through the Centre’s film & drama studies conference the Centre has, during the course of the year, built up closer relationships with services and projects in the performing arts arena including the British Film Institute, the British Universities Film & Video Council, the Performing Arts Data Service, the Shakespeare Multimedia Research Project (Open University), and The Centre of Multimedia Performance Research (University of London).

Within the wider contact of European projects the Centre contributed an extensive section on educational publishing to EI.Pub, funded under the Telematics Application Programme (Information Engineering). The Centre, as part of the HCU, also became a consortium member of ACO*HUM, a SOCRATES thematic network project to disseminate best practice for teaching advanced computing methods in the humanities.

The Centre has represented the CTI on the Teaching and Learning Technology Support Network Consultancy Group, particularly providing advice to the TLTSN centres on possible relationships with institutions as well as examining ways in which the CTI and TLTSN might collaborate and share expertise. Staff from the Centre also sit on the JTAP Virtual Seminars project with a particular remit for advising on the integration and evaluation of the material into teaching, and on OxTalent, an Oxford University steering group for the implementation of new technology into teaching and learning.

5. Success stories

Under the Centre’s evaluation strategy for this reporting period we made it a policy to include evaluation forms within any workshop or visit documentation, and to request that the contact person at the institution submit a letter of evaluation to the Centre. This form of evaluation, together with an internal report for each visit, is valuable in gauging the success or otherwise of the event.

On occasions we have received responses which summarise and provides a reflection of the intended role of the CTI Centre:

"We particularly appreciated having people who knew the discipline, and understand the demands of teaching and scholarship, talking to us about software without trying to sell it to us. It is so difficult to get objective judgements on the usefulness of the various packages available...we all have a much better idea of what might prove fruitful and what may simply be an attractive red herring."

The complete success of a visit to an institution can often be tempered by issues out side of the control of the Centre, and even the department. One such response is typical and underlines the requirement that funding be available for any implementation of an institutional IT strategy:

"We certainly learnt a great amount on a variety of different subjects. The academic staff, like myself, enjoyed seeing or learning about applications of computers which we had no previous familiarity with. They regret that we do not yet have enough computers for the potential demand from students."

Our evaluation strategy this year also involved the mailing of reply-cards to the subscribers to Computers & Texts. The comments we received back confirmed that once again Computers Texts, although unrefereed, is still fulfilling a need within the sector for a journal which provides a mixture of articles and reviews relating to digital resources for teaching and research. The following two comments epitomise many of those received:

"Computers & Texts has introduced me to the plethora of materials available on CD-ROM or through WWW. To an extent, it has changed the way I look at technology, but I don’t believe facilities in X are up to mass use of computers in my subject, history."

"Usually contains thoughtful and interesting articles on genuine CAL issues, as well as the subject-specific stuff."

HTML Author: Michael Fraser
Document Created: 1 October 1997
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