You are browsing the archive for News.

‘O brave new world…’: The Future of Open Shakespeare is Open Literature

James Harriman-Smith - March 12, 2013 in Community, Musings, News, Releases, Technical

At the start of March 2013, openshakespeare.org went offline. Fear not: it will return in all its full annotating, comparing, analysing, searching, publishing glory soon, as an integral part of this website, where all its data, not least its introductions to individual plays, now lives.

This post will set out the reasons why we decided to make this move, and what our vision is for the project in the months and years ahead.

First, the previous incarnation of Open Shakespeare had several problems, largely invisible to most visitors but extremely frustrating for those of us working behind the scenes.

  • No easy way to upload content such as introductions and essays. This was because we were mixing a pylons back end with a wordpress-powered front end. One of the saddest parts of this situation was that we never managed to get certain introductions live. Now, I’m happy to report that you can read Professor emeritus Hugh Macrae Richmond’s thoughts on Henry VI part 2 for the first time on this website.
  • Open Shakespeare had the potential to be something much bigger than it ever was, as evinced by its sister-project Open Milton, which put Milton’s texts inside the same framework as we were using for Shakespeare. Rather than proliferate parallel projects, it made sense to bring them all together under an ‘Open Literature’ platform: uploading the Milton data is thus one of our next big priorities.

Now from these criticisms comes our vision for Open Literature, an adaptable platform for appreciating literature online. We are creating it with the following principles:

  • Ease of use: many of our Open Shakespeare volunteers, myself included, struggled with the intricacies of the website, the vast majority of Open Literature’s administration can be done through the wordpress interface, whether this is the uploading of texts or the publishing of comments, essays or words of the day.
  • Reuse of existing technology: both the Open Knowledge Foundation and other parter organisations have several projects which overlap with Open Literature: we intend to use Textus to power our annotations here, and we will certainly also be making use of the FinalsClub annotations incorporated into Open Shakespeare through the AnnotateIt system.

So there you have it, the groundings of a website where:

  • Anyone can get involved with little technical knowledge.
  • Literary texts from any authors can be uploaded, annotated, searched and analysed.
  • Quality content about these authors can be made open, available to use, re-use and redistribute.

If you’d like to get involved in setting up this platform, the evolution of all our work on Open Shakespeare, do drop in to the Open Humanities mailing lists, either its general or developer variants.

As Miranda says, “O brave new world / That has such people in’t!”.

Shakespeare’s Birth and Shakespeare’s Death

James Harriman-Smith - May 1, 2012 in Essay, Musings, News, Review

This post was published by the Royal Shakesepare Company as part of their ‘Happy Birthday Shakespeare’ collection.

Shakespeare's GraveThe date of an author’s death is always more important than that of his birth. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be celebrating Shakespeare’s entry into the world, but rather that we must not lose sight of the importance of his exit, itself taking place (perhaps) fifty-two years to the day after the Bard’s birth. Given that it is possible that Shakespeare, like Cassius in his Julius Caesar, died on his birthday, I will therefore take this occasion to wish him, simultaneously, Happy Birthday and, I suppose, Happy…errr…Anniversary. I have my reasons for this.

You see, I’m interested in copyright. The death of the author is more important than his birth because it is, in many jurisdictions, from this moment that we now measure the time before the author’s works enter into the public domain. Of course, Shakespeare was born, wrote and died at a time when copyright law was rather different, but this certainly doesn’t mean that he has escaped the web of regulations that have governed texts over the years.

Walker's defence of his actions (click for a larger image)

Were it not for the copyright-infringing actions of a part-time printer, part-time seller of home remedies (one Robert Walker), actions that forced a price war and put cheap editions of Shakespeare out on the streets of eighteenth-century London, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating William’s birthday (or, in my case, his death) now. These cheap editions made Shakespeare well known to all, a theatrical commodity at a time when theatres were beleagured and were in desperate need of a name that was “no doubt marketable”. From there, thanks to Garrick, Pope, Voltaire, and many others, the rest is history…and more copyright disputes.

Even though Shakespeare died three hundred and ninety-six years ago, many of his plays are still in copyright. This is not because Shakespeare has become legally immortal, but rather because we have no unquestionably authoritative texts for any of his plays. Instead, every editor decides whether Hamlet wants his “solid”, “sullied” or “sallied” flesh to melt, copyrights his choice and its explanation, and charges all and sundry for the use of his text. A set quantity of years after that editor’s departure from this world, his text becomes free to use. As a result, full access to the latest, most academically-rigorous texts of Shakespeare is always the length of a copyright term away from the those who do not or cannot pay for the privilege.

This is important. Take the visualisations on the RSC’s My Shakespeare website, as an example. The emotional colouring of King Lear may well look a bit different if we follow either a quarto-based or a folio-based edition of the play. Similarly, the quotes used in Branagan’s ‘Shakespeare by Chance’ are obviously dependant on the latest critical readings of a textual crux. Visualisations based on up-to-date texts are thus still a long way off, since Shakespeare is always evolving, each editor and publisher giving his words new life, and thus – to look at it a different way – a new birthday, a new future death, and, following that event, a new distant entry into the public domain.

This is, however, changing. On 23rd April 2012, fittingly enough, PlayShakespeare.com released a modern, critically-rigorous and machine-readable, edition of Shakespeare’s works, choosing to remove all copyright restrictions from the start. Of course, their text will one day be superseded by new literary discoveries, but it certainly brings the public, analysable, free Shakespeare forward by no “small time”. More scrupulous visualisations are of course now possible, but, beyond this, one hopes for larger things. PlayShakespeare.com’s text has the potential to change Shakespeare’s online presence, currently dominated by the out-of-copyright 1898 Moby edition, digitised in 1993.

Even more importantly, it might make us think before we cut and paste what purports to be the Bard on the internet: whose Shakespeare is this? and, ultimately, whose Shakespeare are we wishing Happy Birthday to?

‘That store of power you have’: Repositories

James Harriman-Smith - February 17, 2012 in Community, News, Technical

No Word of the Day this week, but an announcement instead. All the code behind Open Shakespeare, as well as the data is now freely available on GitHub. You can get to it with the following links:

This “store of power”, as Helena puts it at the end of All’s Well that Ends Well, has been around for a while, but the addition of the data puts the entirety of the project in one place. As well as the plays and poems, you will also find the Droeshout engraving of the bard, material from the Encyclopedia Britannica, and some useful scripts (capable, amongst other things, of using XSL to produce high quality PDFs via Latex).

If you have any questions about using the repository, check out the readme or get in touch with us on our mailing list. Making this stuff freely available is a key part of our belief in openness, and it would be truly wonderful to see other projects grow out of our own.

Success in Inventare il Futuro Competition

James Harriman-Smith - November 8, 2011 in Community, Essay, News, Publicity, Technical, Texts

By James Harriman-Smith and Primavera De Filippi

On the 11th July, the Open Literature (now Open Humanities) mailing list got an email about a competition being run by the University of Bologna called ‘Inventare il Futuro’ or ‘Inventing the Future’. On the 28th October, Hvaing submitted an application on behalf of the OKF, we got an email saying that our idea had won us €3 500 of funding. Here’s how.

The Idea: Open Reading

The competition was looking for “innovative ideas involving new technologies which could contribute to improving the quality of civil and social life, helping to overcome problems linked to people’s lives.” Our proposal, entered into the ‘Cultural and Artistic Heritage’ category, proposed joining the OKF’s Public Domain Calculators and Annotator together, creating a site that allowed users more interaction with public domain texts, and those texts a greater status online. To quote from our finished application:

Combined, the annotator and the public domain calculators will power a website on which users will be able to find any public domain literary text in their jurisdiction, and either download it in a variety of formats or read it in the environment of the website. If they chose the latter option, readers will have the opportunity of searching, annotating and anthologising each text, creating their own personal response to their cultural literary heritage, which they can then share with others, both through the website and as an exportable text document.


As you can see, with thirty thousand Euros for the overall winner, we decided to think very big. The full text, including a roadmap is available online. Many thanks to Jason Kitkat and Thomas Kandler who gave up their time to proofread and suggest improvements.

The Winnings: Funding Improvements to OKF Services

The first step towards Open Reading was always to improve the two services it proposed marrying: the Annotator and the Public Domain Calculators. With this in mind we intend to use our winnings to help achieve the following goals, although more ideas are always welcome:

  • Offer bounties for flow charts regarding the public domain in as yet unexamined jurisdictions.
  • Contribute, perhaps, to the bounties already available for implementing flowcharts into code.
  • Offer mini-rewards for the identification and assessment of new metadata databases.
  • Modify the annotator store back-end to allow collections.
  • Make the importation and exportation of annotations easier.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if any of this is of interest. An Open Humanities Skype meeting will be held on 20th November 2011 at 3pm GMT.

Shakespeare and the Internet

James Harriman-Smith - September 5, 2011 in Community, Essay, News, Publicity

From Monday 12th September to Monday 10th October, Open Shakespeare will host a series of articles on the topic of ‘Shakespeare and the Internet’. When we invited contributions, the theme was deliberately kept as broad as possible in order to facilitate a wide and diverse range of responses from each of those who have written a post for us. Our contributors range from teachers and students of Shakespeare to an experimental theatre company.

Having already read the majority of the contributions, I can say now that the series fulfils its goal of offering what the Bard would call a “multitudinous” range of approaches to the topic of Shakespeare and the Internet; subjects range from why Polonius would appreciate hypertext to the problems and opportunities of online abundance. Please feel free to make use of the comments section at the bottom of each article, and to carry on in this space the points for debate that each article raises. The contributions will appear in the following order:

Every article in this series is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 SA BY licence, meaning that it is free to redistribute and reuse, providing that you attribute it to its author (BY) and that you share-alike. As with all the other material on Open Shakespeare, we hope that publication under such a licence will encourage the diffusion and development of our contributors’ ideas.

My thanks to all those who have contributed their time and thoughts to this project, particularly Erin Weinberg, whose proof-reading skills have been extremely useful in the preparation of these pieces for publication. Depending on the success of this series, we intend to publish similar, themed posts under an open licence in the future: if you would like to participate as either a writer or an editor, please get in touch through the usual channels.

Now, to conclude, I leave you, I hope, in approximately the same state of anticipation as Leonato leaves an impatient Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing:

> till Monday [...] which is hence a just seven-night; and a time too brief too, to have all things answer my mind.

Text Camp 2011

James Harriman-Smith - August 9, 2011 in Community, News, Texts

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s first ever Text Camp will be taking place this Saturday 13th August, thanks to JISC offering us the use of their meeting rooms in London.

Details

  • Where? Brettenham House, 9 Savoy Street, WC2E 7EG, London. – Meet outside ‘The Savoy Tup’ Pub, Savoy Street, at 10am to be guided to the venue.
  • When? Saturday 13th August, 10am – 6pm
  • What?A gathering for all those interested in the relation between technology and literature, with a specal focus on the creation of open knowledge.
  • More details: http://wiki.openliterature.net/Text_Camp_2011
  • Order (free) tickets: http://textcamp2011.eventbrite.com/
  • Twitter: #tcamp11

Hope you can make it!

Text Camp 2011

James Harriman-Smith - August 8, 2011 in Community, News, Publicity

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s first ever Text Camp will be taking place this Saturday 13th August, thanks to JISC offering us the use of their meeting rooms in London.

Details

  • Where? Brettenham House, 9 Savoy Street, WC2E 7EG, London. – Meet outside ‘The Savoy Tup’ Pub, Savoy Street, at 10am to be guided to the venue.
  • When? Saturday 13th August, 10am – 6pm
  • What?A gathering for all those interested in the relation between technology and literature, with a specal focus on the creation of open knowledge.
  • More details: http://wiki.openliterature.net/Text_Camp_2011
  • Order (free) tickets: http://textcamp2011.eventbrite.com/
  • Twitter: #tcamp11

Hope you can make it!

Announcing…Text Camp 2011

James Harriman-Smith - July 22, 2011 in Community, News

The OKF’s first ever ‘Text Camp’ hopes to bring together many different people, all interested in the relationship between digital technologies and literature, with a strong focus on the creation of open knowledge.

When? 13th August 2011, 10am – 6pm Where? To be Confirmed Website: http://wiki.openliterature.net/Text_Camp_2011 Register: http://textcamp2011.eventbrite.com

During the day, we hope to create, discuss and maybe even publish ‘open literature’, which is to say that we will work on both texts that are in (and about) the public domain, and on the open-source tools for the analysis and appreciation of these works.

Planned activities include:

  • Discussion and/or hacking of 2 231 texts recently released from Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) with the help of the Text Creation Partnership
  • Coming up with ideas for and perhaps composing a web based narrative.
  • Writing a guide to creative commons and related licenses as regards literary productions.
  • Working out how to build an online community around a work of literature, with advice on the process of receiving edits to one’s own online work.
  • And, of course, much much more…

Why not suggest your own ideas? or take a look at the wiki for the event?

Open Literature: 10th – 17th July

James Harriman-Smith - July 18, 2011 in Community, News

A quick summary of progress so far, followed by a short list of ways to get involved.

 

  • Annotation sprint on Open Shakespeare: now around 650 annotations on Hamlet - thanks to all who took part! Blog post coming soon.
  • More new words: jump, kated, neapolitan, quondam (with urine forthcoming).
  • New website layout FOR Open Shakespeare: front page much neater now.
  • New volunteers!
  • Draft application for ‘inventare il futuro’ competition at the University of Bologne, featuring Open Shakespeare as prototype for ‘Open Reading’ idea.
  • New essay on Shakespeare and the city…

 

Some ideas about getting involved:

  • 1min: annotate Hamlet.
  • 2min follow @openshakespeare on twitter
  • 10min: what do you think the impact of copyright is on literature? reply to this mail or add your thoughts to our openliterature wiki

Annotation Sprint III

James Harriman-Smith - July 12, 2011 in News, Publicity, Shakespeare

Date: Thursday 14th July

Time: 9am to 5pm BST

(thus UTC 8am-4pm, EDT 4am-12 noon, PDT 1am-9am)

You can also follow us online using the hashtag #annotation or make suggestions on the Open Literature etherpad.

How to Participate

Step 0: Check your browser

To participate in the annotation sprint, you will need a recent version of Firefox or Chrome or Safari.

Step One: Login to Open Shakespeare [optional]

[optional]: you don’t need to login — but if you don’t your contributions will be anonymous.

To login you’ll need to obtain an OpenID if you don’t have one. Here’s how:

  1. Visit https://www.myopenid.com/

  2. Click on the button ‘Sign up for an OpenID’

  3. Follow their instructions to create an OpenID by which you will be known when annotating

Now you’ve got an OpenID you can login:

  1. Go to our login page

  2. Click on the ‘OpenID’ button

  3. Copy and paste, or type out your OpenID, which looks like a web address

Step Two: Start Annotating!

  1. Go to Hamlet

  2. All the instructions are written on the side of the page in the ‘Annotation: Howto’ column