Saturday, February 8, 2014

Technically speaking ...

For over a decade, the Homer Multitext project has been exploring how to represent a multitext in digital form.  For some of our essential work, we have been able to adopt well understood practices (such as how to use XML markup to structure a diplomatic edition of a text).  In other aspects of our work, we are faced with issues that have not been explored in prior work on digital scholarship, and have had to define new standards.

We have devoted special attention to the fundamental question of how to cite texts in a form that is independent of any specific technology and sufficiently rigorously defined for computers to use.  We have defined the syntax and semantics for a notation for citing texts that is based on the Internet Engineering Taskforce's Uniform Resource Name (URN) notation.  We call this notation the Canonical Text Service URN, or CTS URN.

We have also defined a protocol for a networked service that understands the CTS URN notation, and can retrieve passages of texts.  Unsurprisingly, we call this the Canonical Text Service protocol, or CTS protocol.

We have worked hard to ensure that the technical design of our notation and service fully satisfies the needs of the Homer Multitext project, but is not limited to or in any way specific to the HMT project's corpus of texts.  Both of us have applied the CTS notation and CTS service protocol to a range of other projects, not limited to Greek or Latin texts.  As our work on these two technical projects has matured, we have found more and more interest in it from scholars working with canonically citable texts.

This week, we were able to complete revisions for a new version of the specification for both the CTS URN notation and CTS protocol.  It was especially gratifying that we were able to complete this work during a visit to Leiden University, where we were graciously hosted by Ineke Sluiter and her colleagues, a new group of collaborators on HMT who first participated in the summer 2013 seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies.

The specifications:

Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith, HMT project architects


  1. Fascinating, to say the least! Richard Vallance Janke, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae

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