AIA/SCS Annual Meeting 2018 - Boston: Part 1.

This year’s AIA/SCS Annual Meeting was held in my hometown of Boston, but funnily enough, it was a nightmare getting to and from the venue despite my being local; unplowed sidewalks, T delays, fears of getting my dark blue suit pants stained en route to an interview. Not great times. In this post, I’ll go day-by-day through my experience of the meeting, which, I tweeted at one point, was the best professional experience I’ve had in my admittedly short Classics career thus far. I’ll break this up into a few posts; this first part will cover, actually, a pre-AIA/SCS event, the OGL Workshop at Tufts University.

Wednesday, 1/3 - OGL Workshop (@ Tufts University)

The meeting actually started a day early for me, as I attended the Open Greek and Latin workshop at Tufts the day before (Wednesday, 1/3). You can find my thread of tweets for the day here. The goal of the workshop was to explain, first of all, what the Open Greek and Latin Project and its subprogram, the First One Thousand Years of Greek Project, entail and, second, to describe and demonstrate the tools being used to complete the process. OGL aims at creating an openly accessible, free to use database of ancient Greek and Latin texts that can be used in scholarship, pedagogy, or even general perusal and edification. Existing frameworks like Perseus and CapiTainS provided the groundwork for OGL and First 1K Greek (the latter of which aims to supplement with annotated texts that do not currently reside in Perseus), but the goal is a corpus with a sensible reference system both within each text and across to others, annotated with clear metadata about authors, titles, editions, coders, funders, etc.

The morning began with descriptions of the projects and on the creation of digital Classicists more generally, both at the undergraduate and the graduate levels. The latter hit home, as Pat (@diyclassics) noted how difficult it is to balance an interest in digital tools, which often must be learned and tinkered with on your own time, with the full time exigencies of graduate education, between courses, qualifying exams, and often teaching.

The next section of the day went into the tools that are used in the creation of an OGL text. Alison Babeu described the metadata involved in an OGL document, including author names, birth and death dates, edition numbers, funders, coders, and so on. Bruce Robertson showed the process of creating an OCR tool to recognize Greek characters, despite the challenges posed by such problems as differing typefaces, diacritical marks, and the large number of glyphs compared to Latin, and then demonstrated the use of a tool to correct the automatic OCR output. Lenny Mueller explained how OGL texts use CTS identifiers (Canonical Text Services) for internal and external references to corpus texts; EpiDoc, a subset of TEI-XML standards for the types of elements that can appear in an OGL document; CapiTainS XML guidelines to allow reuse of their texts in different web applications; and the CapiTainS HookTest, a suite of tests that checks a document for compliance with CapiTainS Guidelines and EpiDoc. James Tauber then gave us a preview of the Scaife Viewer as it will be used in Perseus 5.0. The Viewer will include tools like hotlinking down to a CTS subreference, lemmata search and organization tools, intra- and intertextual word frequency lists, morphology tools and form generation based on a text. Extraordinarily cool stuff, and I was happy to actually meet James Tauber in person after chatting on Twitter about my (at the time) pie in the sky aspirations to build a Greek forms quiz for my Homer students this semester.

IMPORTANT LATER EDIT: Make sure to see the Tweet thread below from Thibault Clerice (@PonteIneptique) for clarification of the nomenclature around the API protocol, content provider, and source formats involved in the project.

The afternoon was a practicum setting to test out some of the tools that we had seen and learn about others. The choices presented were between metadata annotation of OGL XML texts, further discussion of the LACE tool, and trying out a translation alignment tool called Ugarit. I opted for the second, which essentially became a discussion of the ways in which these texts to be OCR-ed become fair game to use (i.e., public domain) after a certain amount of time that varies by country.

All in all, the day opened my eyes to brand new areas in digital Classics that I had never known existed before and introduced me to a new ethos of scholarship and pedagogy. The entire goal of the OGL project is openness and accessibility, and the ability to use these powerful tools in my own research and teaching free of charge actively excites me and invites me to think about how to use my knowledge with these tools to bring Classics to a much broader audience. My thoughts continued to develop a few days later at the Ancient MakerSpaces workshop, but more on that later. For now, it suffices to say that there’s a lot of excellent work being done with the OGL Project, and I hope to contribute to it in the future.

(Note: Many thanks to Thibault Clerice (@PonteIneptique) for helping me edit this blog post for accuracy of terms and additional links!)