Text Encoding without //text: The use of //abstract as means to avoid the one-dimensionality of ego-networks in the 'Buber-Correspondences Digital' project

Authors: Jurst-Görlach, Denise / Kollatz, Thomas

Date: Thursday, 7 September 2023, 4:15pm to 5:45pm

Location: Main Campus, L 1 <campus:stage>


Buber-Correspondences Digital1 is a project focused on the 41,400 preserved letters, postcards, and telegrams exchanged between Martin Buber and over 7,000 different correspondents. The goal of the project is to thoroughly research these dialogues in epistolary-form, which have received little attention thus far. A tiered editorial process is being applied using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). A suitable framework for the elementary metadata, such as sender, recipient, location, and date, is provided by the TEI element <correspDesc>, which will be made available for all correspondence units. In addition, 20% of the letters, mainly those with notable figures, are being digitally edited in full text using the TEI. 65% of the correspondences are provided with extensive structured metadata using the TEI element <abstract>.

Each abstract is divided into three parts: First, it contains a (human-readable) summary of essential contents organized in <item>s. Followed by indices listing the entities (persons, organizations, places, works, events), both those explicitly mentioned and those implicitly relevant. With regard to the planned cultural-historical analysis of Buber’s dialogical relationships and networks of scholars and intellectuals represented by the correspondences, the project takes a third step: the entities are brought into relation with each other, thus breaking up the purely static presentation of a plain register. This dynamization is achieved with the help of the TEI element <relation>, which interrelates entities in a triple-like structure: subject-predicate-object. By focusing on the content of letters, the ‘boring’ one-dimensionality that ego-networks tend to have can be overcome.

Initial evaluations of this dynamic structuralization of letter content have shown promising results, using RDF/SPARQL and graph-database Neo4j.

About the authors

Denise Jurst-Görlach is a research associate at the Buber-Rosenzweig Institute at Goethe University Frankfurt. Her research interests include German-Jewish and Austrian Literature of the 19th and 20th century and Digital Scholarly Editions.

Since 2017 Thomas Kollatz works as a researcher in the Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz. He is a member of the EpiDoc Development Group and the Digital Forum of the European Association of Jewish Studies.

Since 2021 both are working in the long-term project (2021–2045) Buber-Korrespondenzen Digital.


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