Digital Publishing and Editing


With the scientific work sphere growing increasingly digital, both the procedures related to the publication of research results and the specific methods surrounding the creation of critical editions are currently subject to profound change. The continued development of hard- and software is highly relevant to new possibilities regarding production and reception. Digital publishing makes it possible to link publications to other online resources and, for example, to make sources accessible directly from the references of a publication. By adding unique identifiers —for instance for individuals, places or events — such cross-linking can even take place automatically. Multimedia and interactive components can turn scientific publications into “rich media”. As a result of the fact that digital documents can be edited practically free of restrictions, publications that used to be static can now become dynamic and thus enable participation on the part of the recipients.

Furthermore, it is important to consider several non-technical aspects which did not play any, or at least not a significant role in the pre-digital era. For instance, it is worth mentioning the communication and networking structures of the “social web” which facilitate the creation of micro publication formats in addition to monographs, articles and reviews. They enable a higher level of discourse in the field of publishing. Another aspect is the possibility of including research data in a publication and thus making it directly accessible as an inherent element within a publication. Legal topics also need to be addressed, for example with regard to copyright and usage, as well as licensing options for open access publications. Finally, questions about the evaluation of digital publication formats among historians are arising: will the use of these new possibilities be considered to add to our knowledge and thus be regarded as a means of increasing reputation? Or do we face the danger of losing direction by neglecting subject-related questions while exploring the increased diversity of work tools? Also, one needs to take into account the challenges surrounding the long-term availability of digital publications and, as a result, whether we can guarantee that they are in fact referenceable.

A whole set of different questions needs to be dealt with in the context of critical editions: the availability of large amounts of text and image data, as well as the existence of specific digital tools, has resulted in a significant extension of the materials which can and must be processed. As opposed to how critical editions were devised in the past, major collections of textual and non-textual materials can now be put together; texts, contexts and paratexts can be represented in the form of networks. Markup languages encode texts, enhance them with information and categories and facilitate search and analysis. However, so far we have neither universal standards nor binding regulations of appliance. In addition to this, markup languages, as well as the provision systems currently in use, are in the middle of a continuing and highly dynamic process of development, which raises fundamental questions pertaining to compatibility, stability and sustainability.

Hence, new challenges and requirements have emerged in the fields of publishing and editing, with digital historians requiring information about discussions, references and tools. The Working Group on Digital History hopes to make a contribution by providing the framework for a mutual exchanges on methods, tools, and research questions, as well as the methodological and theoretical foundation thereof.

Coordinator: Marina Lemaire together with Torsten Hiltmann, Christoph Schäfer and Jörg Wettläufer