Citation in Digital Scholarship: A Conversation

October 4th, 2010 by Sebastian Heath

I’m writing to bring readers’ attention to a series of pages that is coming together on the Digital Classicist wiki under the rubric “Citation in digital scholarship” (category). I take responsibility/blame for initiating the project, but it has already benefitted from input by Matteo Romanello (author of CRefEx) and from comments by my colleagues at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. You’ll also see the influence of the Canonical Text Services.

A slight preview of what you’ll find there and of where this all might go:

  1. The goal is to provide a robust and simple convention for indicating that citations are present. How robust? How simple? At a bare minimum, just wrap a citation in ‘<a class=”citation” href=”http://example.org”>…</a>’. That will distinguish intellectually significant citations from other links (such as to a home page for the hosting project). I cribbed the  ’class=”citation”‘ string from Matteo’s articles cited at the bottom of the wiki page. Please also consider adding a ‘title’ and ‘lang’ attribute as described.
  2. We are also interested in encouraging convergence on best practices for communicating information about the entities being cited and about the nature of the citation itself:
    1. There is a page “Citations with added RDFa” that suggests conventions for using RDFa to add markup. It encourages use of Dublin Core terms.
    2. Matteo has begun a page “Citations with CTS and Microformats“. CTS, developed by Neel Smith and Chris Blackwell, is important by way of its potential to provide stable URIs to well-known texts.

    Merging these conventions is of ongoing interest. And they do illustrate that one goal is to converge on best practices that are extendable and not in unnecessary conflict with existing work.

  3. While it isn’t represented on the wiki yet, I intend to start a javascript library that will identify citations in a page (e.g. jQuery’s “$(‘.citation’)” ) in order to present information about, along with options for following, a particular citation. Or to list and map all the dc:Location’s cited in a text. Etc.
  4. Closing the loop: this work overlaps with a meeting held by the ISAW Digital Projects Team in NYC last week. The preliminary result is a tool for managing URIs in a shared bibliographic infrastructure. This is one example of an entity that can produce embeddable markup conforming to the ‘class=”citation”‘ convention. Such markup would be consumable by the planned js library. Any project that produces stable URIs can have an “Embed a link to here.” (vel sim) widget that produces conforming html for authors to re-use.

I’m grateful to Gabriel Bodard for letting me use the Digital Classicist wiki to start these pages and for encouraging me to summarize here. The effort is inspired by the observation that a little bit of common documentation, sharing, and tool building can lead to big wins for users and developers, as well as to greater interoperability for our citation practices going forward.

Comments here are very welcome.

2 Responses to “Citation in Digital Scholarship: A Conversation”

  1. Sebastian Heath Says:

    I’ve pushed a very preliminary version of the javascript library to http://github.com/sfsheath/citations-js . Chrome and FireFox will run this from the local filesystem. Safari doesn’t seem to like that.

  2. mromanello Says:

    At http://vitruviandesign.blogspot.com/2010/10/thinking-about-citation.html a follow-up by Neel Smith on this topic.

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