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Contents

The Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory / Le Collaboratoire scientifique des écrits du Canada

Words move. They move us to understand Canada’s tradition and diversity. They move 166,701 majors, including future leaders in politics, business, education, and culture, yearly through humanities programs of Canadian universities. They move $3.3 billion yearly through our publishing industry. They move people halfway around the world to visit Anne of Green Gables’ farmhouse on PEI.

Words move differently now, through semi-conductors, across screens, at lightning speed, and in vast quantities. Scholars have studied how words make and move us for centuries, but the digital turn demands new tools and new tool environments.

The Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC, pronounced "quirk") / Le Collaboratoire scientifique des écrits du Canada (CSÉC) has been funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Leading Edge Fund to establish an online infrastructure for literary research in and about Canada.

What is CWRC?

The Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory / Le Collaboratoire scientifique des écrits du Canada is an innovative online project designed to enable unprecedented avenues for studying the words that most move people in and about Canada. At this critical juncture when Canada’s literary heritage is moving online, management of information about Canadian cultural history still relies on tools derived from print models, which cannot accommodate the explosion of online materials. Literary studies must shift from the conventional model of solitary scholars working on small groups of texts, towards fertile large-scale cross- disciplinary collaborative energies. CWRC’s specialized interface will connect scattered and siloed data; investigate links between writers, texts, places, groups, policies, and events; advance understanding of past and present cultural change; and produce fascinating new knowledge accessible to Canadians and the world.

The Collaboratory will be an innovative web-based service-oriented platform combining:

  • a database (Online Research Canada, ORCA) to house born-digital scholarly materials, digitized texts, and metadata (indices, annotations, cross-references). Content and tools will be open access wherever possible and designed for interoperability with each other and with other systems. The database will be seeded with a range of existing digital materials, as well as with information to provide the backbone of an Integrated History of Women's Writing in Canada.
  • a toolkit for empowering new collaborative modes of scholarly writing online; editing, annotating, and analyzing materials in and beyond ORCA; discovering and collaborating with researchers with intersecting interests; mining knowledge about relations, events and trends, through automated methods and interactive visualizations; and analyzing the system’s usage patterns to discover areas for further investigation. Forms of collaboration will range from the sharing and building of fundamental resources such as filmographies, and author and subject bibliographies, to the collaborative production of born-digital historical and literary studies.

CWRC’s key is integration: of system components; of information whose value increases exponentially when combined and subjected to new modes of inquiry; of scholarly materials with the massive archive of digital texts; of scholars themselves.


Wordle visualization of the CWRC CFI application

Who is CWRC for?

CWRC involves more than one hundred scholars from across Canada, with the aim of engaging the Canadian writing research community at large and researchers worldwide, as both contributors and users, in the task of devising new tools and methods of scholarship to meet the digital turn. The CWRC infrastructure builds on the Orlando Project's expertise in collaborative online scholarly production.

CWRC’s partners and supporters include:

The CLC provides leadership on the research side of this project, playing a major role on the CRWC Board, convening regular meetings of researchers and projects involved in CRWC, coordinating research grant applications and funding, and contributing to outreach, dissemination, administration and scholarly output in both official languages.


Participants

The CWRC project is led by Susan Brown, director of the Orlando Project and visiting Professor at the University of Alberta and Professor of English at the University of Guelph. The Canadian Literature Centre/ Centre de littérature canadienne (University of Alberta), directed by Professor Marie Carrière, is a leading partner in the research planning.

The "principal users" for the CFI infrastructure grant are: Ofer Arazy, Marie Carrière, Arie Croitoru, Patricia Demers, Carole Gerson, Isobel Grundy, Dean Irvine, Stan Ruecker, and Eleni Stroulia.

Many other scholars are involved as supporters and future users: see this partial list of people involved in CWRC. Formal modes of affiliation are being developed.

Anyone with potentially compatible research projects or a strong interest in being involved in the development of digital tools for the Canadian writing research community is invited to contact:

cwrc [the at sign] ualberta [a dot] ca

Further details about CWRC

The leading Edge Fund enables institutions to build on already successful and productive initiatives supported by past CFI investments. CWRC builds on the award-winning, successfully commercialized Orlando Project’s innovations in humanities scholarship, manifested in its published texbase (Brown et al 2006). Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present, is a born-digital literary history resource extensively structured with semantic tagging of its interpretive contents. It has been heralded by users as a trailblazer: “because of the ways in which the extensive data can be mined or formulated, Orlando ... serves as a model for similar databases” (Harner), and praised for its “working method and the multidirectional results” (Bold; see also Booth, Fraiman, Hickman). The Orlando Project’s innovation continues in its ongoing experimentation with methods for advancing literary historical analysis with computers (Sinclair 2009), in its interface research (Ruecker et al 2009; Brown et al 2006a; Brown et al 2007), and in its exploration of data mining and visualization (Brown et al 2009; Sinclair et al 2009).

The CWRC project promises to deliver an innovative online system designed to enable unprecedented avenues for studying Canada’s literary heritage. Today, we are witnessing explosion of online materials, as many original resources are being migrated online, and the methodological implications are profound (Anderson; Felluga). The “Million Books” problem has been recognized by scholars and granting councils as one of the most pressing challenges to traditional humanities methodologies and simultaneously one of the greatest opportunities for real innovation in the development of digital methods (Crane; Olsen and Argamon). Still, the methodologies adopted by literary researchers rely on tools derived from print models, which cause a fundamental impediment in taking advantage of the newly available resources. Literary studies must shift from the conventional model of solitary scholars working on small groups of texts, towards fertile large-scale cross- disciplinary collaborative energies. The objective of the CWRC project is exactly to help shift the methodology for the domain through an integrated software infrastructure that will connect scattered and siloed data and support the investigation of links between writers, texts, places, groups, policies, and events.

The Collaboratory will be comprised of 3 elements:

  1. A database (Online Research Canada, ORCA) to house born-digital scholarly data, digitized texts, and metadata (indices, annotations, cross-references). ORCA will continuously expand, remain current with scholars’ results, and aggregate data within scholarly contexts. Content and tools will be open access wherever possible and designed for interoperability with other systems.
  2. A CWRC toolkit for empowering new collaborative modes of scholarly writing online; editing, annotating, and analyzing materials in and beyond ORCA; discovering and collaborating with researchers with intersecting interests; mining knowledge about relations, events and trends, through automated methods and interactive visualizations; and analyzing the system’s usage patterns to discover areas for further investigation.
  3. ORCA content and the CWRC toolkit will be integrated through a web-based service-oriented platform, to enable efficient deployment of emergent tools supporting literary research.

The CWRC infrastructure will enable literary scholars to advance our understanding of past and present cultural change and produce new knowledge accessible to Canadians and the world. At the same time, CWRC will advance digital humanities methodologies in a number of ways: 1) through the development in close consultation with a community of literary scholars of a platform for the collaborative production and maintenance of an extensive body of born digital scholarly materials as well as bibliographical materials, biocritical reference matter, and digital archives of existing texts; 2) through the production in consultation with this community of literary scholars and the digital humanities community of a suite of tools designed to allow researchers to interrogate digital materials in new ways; 3) through its experiments in social networking and attempting to crowdsource (cf. ReCAPTCHA) the immense labour of creating high-quality digital content; 4) through the provision of a testbed within which scholars can deploy experimental tools and interfaces. The development of these tools in partnership with this community will assist digital humanists in producing tools and interfaces that are well suited to scholarly use.

CWRC’s international team of more than 100 affiliated scholars includes leading Canadian digital humanists, and prominent Canadianist scholars and projects. And because words pose some of the thorniest problems for advanced computing analysis and computing tool usability, the team boasts experts in software engineering, GIS, and business. Such interdisciplinarity is needed to scale up Orlando’s pioneering features to enable a globally distributed community of literary researchers to study highly contextualized, multi-lingual content, and, through their experimentation with new-generation tools, to transform academic protocols for a whole field.

The project is multi-lingual and interdisciplinary in expertise and approach: literary studies, humanities computing, computing science, business, and earth science. CWRC will be mainly open-access, accessible to Canadians and the world.

Sponsors

Upcoming Events: Congress, May 2010; Conference, 30 September - 3 October, 2010)

Canadian Women Writers Conference: Connecting Texts and Generations / Colloque Écritures des femmes du Canada : textes et générations en contact (30 September - 3 October, 2010)]] University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB

Calls for Papers

Project Manager Position

Past Events