WWP The Project Newsletter Volume 4, Number 2

From the Director

Allen Renear

As most of you know, I'm not new to the WWP. But as this is my first "From the Director" column as the new Director, I thought I'd take advantage of the occasion to reintroduce myself, and also to say a few words about the WWP's new administrative home at Brown -- the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group (STG).

My involvement with the WWP goes back nearly to its beginning. After the premise of the WWP was set early in 1988, three of us -- Susanne Woods, Elaine Brennan, and I -- began working on a large NEH grant proposal. My part of the proposal was developing a well-theorized methodology for the design of a literary textbase. Even though we could not foresee the success of the next ten years, we had no doubts that the WWP was a potentially momentous enterprise, and designing the project described in that first proposal was terrifically exciting. We were sure that we were planning a project that could have a major impact on our knowledge and understanding of women's writing (and therefore writing and culture simpliciter). We also knew that we would be pioneering new techniques for the application of technology to literature -- techniques that would create powerful and consequential new ways of engaging these texts, and would help us achieve our cultural and scholarly goals in ways that traditional technology could not.

Over the next few years I continued to give the project technical advice and help keep it connected with the growing humanities computing community, both locally (involving many who are now members of STG), and in the wider international community, particularly the Text Encoding Initiative and the Association for Computing in the Humanities. Later, in 1992, when Susanne left to become Vice President at Franklin & Marshall, I became the WWP's Co-Director, eventually moving my office to the WWP to help reorganize the project to take advantage of its continuing growth and success. In 1994, that reorganization resulted in a new WWP Director, Carol DeBoer-Langworthy. With Carol's arrival I was able to step back from day-to-day WWP activities and devote my attention to the newly formed Scholarly Technology Group, although I continued to serve on the WWP Executive Committee and work closely with Carol on WWP strategy.

During Carol's four years with the WWP I have had the great pleasure of watching it develop under her leadership into the well-institutionalized, effective organization it is today. It has been a wonderful and gratifying experience to watch this transformation. And equally exciting to be part of the next phase, as the Project finalizes the first release of its textbase and prepares for full-scale electronic publishing. It is to better support the work of this phase that the WWP has moved its administrative home to Brown's Scholarly Technology Group.

Actually, far from being much of a move, this change is to some extent recognizing a partnership that has existed for quite some time now. STG has been working closely with the WWP for years, in areas ranging from technical support and prototype development to long-term strategy. We have actually shared staff (me for instance), travelled to conferences together, and puzzled over each other's encoding problems. But most importantly, the histories of the two groups, and, going even further back, of their staff members, are thoroughly intertwined -- we are in fact all part of a single humanities computing community that has been thriving at Brown since the late 1970s.

The Scholarly Technology Group was formed in 1994 with the mission of providing institutional leadership in humanities computing and advanced support for Brown's computing projects. To accomplish this, STG develops new technologies, practices, and specialized tools, and provides consulting and project management services to academic projects. Although we started with only two members in 1994, we grew quickly, mostly through external grants and contracts, to a staff of twelve. We are now considered one of the top two or three humanities computing centers in the country and one of the top four or five in the world.

STG's special areas of expertise are textbase development, electronic publishing, and hypertext and hypermedia, particularly in the humanities. Its projects cover a wide range of disciplines and activities: from helping develop a web-based environment for teaching Bocaccio's Decameron to designing a catalogue of South Asian manuscripts; from helping develop a web-based bibliography of Catalan literature to helping high school students work with an oral historian to create, and publish on the Web, a multimedia oral history of the experiences of women during World War II. These projects, and many others, are described on our website: http://www.stg.brown.edu/.

There are many ways that STG staff and resources will be helping the WWP. Among them are administrative support, financial management, and basic technical assistance. But what is particularly exciting for us all will be working together to help develop a plan for publishing the WWP textbase electronically. Preparing and publishing primary sources in the humanities is a particular STG interest and one where we would like to think we have world class experience and capabilities.

A Short Biography of our New Director

Allen Renear received an AB from Bowdoin College and an MA and PhD, all in philosophy, from Brown University. He taught college philosophy before joining Brown's Computing and Information Services in 1984, where he worked as a consultant and project leader specializing in humanities computing, and, later, as a strategic planner for the Vice President for Computing. In 1994 he became the first Director of the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group. Allen has lectured and published widely on his research interests: theoretical topics in textuality and humanities methodology (his most recent article is "Out of Praxis: Three (Meta)Theories of Textuality" in Electronic Textuality: Investigations in Method and Theory, ed. Kathryn Sutherland, Oxford University Press, 1998). He has been involved with the Text Encoding Initiative since its beginning in 1989, and was the American Philosophical Association's delegate to the TEI Advisory Board. In 1997 he was elected President of the Association for Computers and the Humanities.

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