Reassembling the Republic of Letters

Welcome to the Spanish Republic of Letters project blog. We've come a long way since November, when Guy Lazure, Dave Johnston and I decided that in the spirit of the Renaissance which we aimed to understand it was time to rebuild the SRL platform and relaunch. If you'd like to take a peak at what was before, follow this link. We've made great strides.

As you can see, the current SRL iteration is more expansive, and it offers considerably more utility to scholars and students. The new platform has been developed on Drupal 7, a popular open-source CMS that affords virtually limitless development thanks to it's strong user-driven development community and modularity. Moreover, users can now search our datasets easily using faceted queries and fulltext search. Not least, in addition to over a thousand letters, we've added an entirely new component: catalogues of personal libraries. We are continuing to ask questions about correspondence networks and intellectual geographies in Renaissance Spain, but we are stepping into new directions, too; specifically, Renaissance book publishing, book exchange, reading habits, and more. And in the very near future we hope to employ this static data to develop interactive visualizations that will allow scholars and students to navigate and analyze data through a different—perhaps more palatable—lens. Needless to say, we are very excited by these developments.

But we are a modest team asking rather large questions. To help with our intellectual and methodological growth, we are travelling to Como, Italy to participate in the Reassembling the Republic of Letters Visualization Conference Apr. 4|8, a conference supported by the COST Action Group. The goal of this workshop is to bring together humanists, computer scientists and designers to undergo case study-based exploration into visualizing structured or unstructured data drawn from the Republic of Letters. The goal of this meeting is twofold. First, it affords scholars an opportunity to investigate themes through visualization, which is considered—now more than ever—a useful tool for supporting their research, assisted by data experts who approach the topic both from the side of visual design and that of data analysis. Second, the conference provides designers and programmers an opportunity to observe and work next to these new smart users who will help them express and articulate their own experiences with the use of visualization tools and, more generally, with their data. Ultimately, the workshop will help to unravel many technical doubts and outline good practices and strategies that are useful for designing better tools for digital humanities.

Over the next week we'll keep you up to date with intermittent progress updates. We'll try to share a picture or two, as well.