Aims and Objectives

The aim of the C21 Editions project is to advance the practice of scholarly digital editing by  researching and prototyping data standards that will enable editions to accommodate born-digital content,  such as social media, and methods that will enable editors to benefit from machine-assisted insights, such as  Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Specifically, this project will: 

  • Explore how born-digital materials, such as social media content, electronic literature and online  virtual world, might be accommodated by editing practices and publishing platforms which are  feasible and replicable right across the digital humanities community. This needs to consider new  data standards and frameworks for scholarly editing that are conceptually different to the codex oriented approaches that have dominated text-centred activities to date. It must accommodate  some of the unique characteristics of born-digital materials, such as their size and volume, non-linear  inter-relationships, multimodality, durability, and authenticity (since they can be easily reproduced,  changed and republished). 
  • Demonstrate how machine-assisted insights such as Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing,  computational linguistics, data visualisation, and record linkage can improve edition making and digital publishing by increasing the speed, accuracy, and variety of time-consuming editorial tasks  such as annotating, glossing and connecting texts, as well as enabling editors to intuitively approach  their curated materials through close and distant ways of reading. This needs to consider how edition  making can take place in dialogue with other, open knowledge resources on the web through the  affordances of domain ontologies, APIs, and linked data. We must also consider how the tools of  machine-assisted editing can be made open, reproducible, and easily usable for editors with limited  technical expertise. 

In addressing these two topics, C21 Editions will look to lay the foundation for a major advance in the state of-the-art across both digital scholarly editing and digital publishing, problematising what scholarly editing  and publishing paradigms and practices are needed in order to create and share critical editions of born digital primary sources, what such editions should and can contain, what they should look like, and how they should function and be used compared with conventional digital editions and print publishing. Sustainability will be central to this project’s outcomes, and so it will also examine how such outputs  can be created and maintained in practice in terms of technology and skills requirements, and what role  digital cultural heritage repositories should play as custodians.

Through prototype-based case studies, the project will demonstrate the extent to which theories of  digital editions might be actually implemented in a flexible, reproducible, open, and sustainable manner.


The objectives are as follows:

  • Conduct secondary research analysis of existing digital scholarly editions, practices and theories, as well as interviews with leading experts, synthesising existing research, perspectives, and practices.
  • Produce a much-needed substantial white paper detailing the theoretical and technical state-of-the-art in digital scholarly editing, laying the foundation for the development of the future field.
  • Develop two high impact case studies prototyping new open standards for editing born-digital content and tools for computer-aided scholarly editing, using born-digital materials relating to an Irish author (to be announced), and an online edition of The Canterbury Tales using unpublished witnesses held by the University of Sheffield.
  • Work with the National Library of Ireland to determine how public cultural institutions in possession of born-digital materials can better achieve their strategic aims and disseminate such materials to the scholarly community and the general public.
  • Explore how machine learning and computational techniques can assist in the production of annotated texts and resources, as well as produce scholarly insights based on curated materials, greatly enhancing the capacity for scholars and institutions to produce large-scale, interactive, information-rich textual resources.
  • Establish User Design Groups of stakeholders who will participate in inclusive design workshops, intended to ensure that our impact case studies, born-digital editing and computational techniques are user-led in purpose and value.
  • Provide the DH and wider scholarly community with the open and intuitive tools, resources and data necessary to replicate the prototypes and approaches utilised in this project across all research and teaching.
  • Convene a free, inclusive conference to discuss the possible futures for the field of digital scholarly editing and publishing.
  • Undertake additional dissemination activities that are intended to increase the impact of the project and its outputs, such as methodology workshops, research articles, case study reports, panel sessions at international academic conferences, and presentations at relevant events.