Joris van Zundert, Huygens ING (KNAW)


January 16, 2014

Textual Scholarship Beyond the Book

In my current research I focus on the digital scholarly edition as a site of methodological interaction between computer science and textual scholarship. It has been suggested that at the intersection of research domains collaborative work gives rise to methodological pidgins: a reduced common language that facilitates interdisciplinary cooperation in the ‘trading zone’ between domains (Galison  2010). I am interested in the theory and praxis of the interaction that takes place in this trading zone. In both theory and praxis surrounding the digital scholarly edition we can observe methodological effects of digital technologies and methodologies. It is questionable however if these changes constitute a ‘common language’. More importantly: the overt influence of e.g. Hypertext theory on textual scholarship theory seems to sharply contrast with the covert influence of computer science praxis on the digital scholarly edition.

It has been pointed out many times for instance that digital and computational approaches should enhance the scholarly editor’s abilities for textual analysis (e.g. Moretti 2007). That they should allow the scholarly researcher to explore new forms of engagement with texts (e.g. McGann 2001, Buzzetti 2009). In recent years particularly also the potential of collaborative and community aspects of digital editions have drawn considerable interest in the scholarly domain (e.g. Siemens et al. 2012). Glancing at the landscape of existing digital scholarly editions however, one can wonder if digital editions have been informed much at all by such theories about digital text, the fluidity of text, text-as-process, and text engagement. Mostly the result of the digital scholarly editing process seems to be a digital metaphor of the codex.

Following inter alia Robinson (Robinson 2004), Sahle (Sahle 2013) and Svensson (Svensson 2012) it can be argued that there is little rational for producing non-industry standards anchored digital scholarly editions of questionable sustainability if they do not at least sincerely explore the scholarly advantages of the digital realm, or in other words: if they do not present text in ways and with functionalities that would be unachievable in the print paradigm. It is unlikely however that the current mode of interaction at the interface of computer science and textual scholarship provide for such explorations.



Buzzetti, D., 2009. Digital Editions and Text Processing. In M. Deegan & K. Sutherland, eds. Text Editing, Print and the Digital World. Farnham (UK)/Burlington (USA): Ashgate, pp. 45–61. Available at: [Accessed September 27, 2013].

Galison, Peter, 2010. Trading with the enemy. In Gorman, Michael E., ed. Trading zones and Interactional Expertise: Creating New Kinds of Collaboration. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, p. 39,40.

McGann, J., 2001. Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web, New Yok: Palgrave Macmillan.

Moretti, F., 2007. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History, Verso.

Robinson, P., 2004. Where We Are with Electronic Scholarly Editions, and Where We Want to Be. Available at: [Accessed June 6, 2013].

Sahle, P., 2013. Digitale Editionsformen, Zum Umgang mit der Überlieferung unter den Bedingungen des Medienwandels – Befunde, Theorie und Methodik, Norderstedt: Norderstedt Books on Demand.

Siemens, Ray et al., 2012. Toward modeling the social edition: An approach to understanding the electronic scholarly edition in the context of new and emerging social media. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 27(4), pp.445–461.


Joris v ZundertBio

Drs. Joris J. van Zundert (1972) is a researcher and developer in the field of digital and computational humanities. He works at the Huygens Institute for the History of The Netherlands, a research institute of The Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). At the same institute he is also program leader of the Methodology research program, which fosters discussion and research on textual scholarship, documentary editing and their relation to digital and computational methods. Joris van Zundert headed and/or contributed to several key digital humanities projects at the Huygens Institute and the Royal Academy. He was Chair of Interedition, a European/US network of digital humanities developers that fosters interoperability and expertise exchange, and he was a member of the National Advisory Panel of CLARIN in the Netherlands. As a researcher and developer his main interest lies with the possibilities of computational algorithms for the analysis of literary and historic texts, and the nature and properties of humanities information and data modeling.