C.M. Sperberg-McQueen, PhD
Department: Digital Humanities
Visiting time at TU Darmstadt: April 2015 – September 2015
Teaching offer during Summer Semester 2015:
- Challenges of electronic publication (S + Ü)
- Zur Geschichte der vollkommenen Sprachen
- Document processing with XSLT and XQuery
for details please see TUCaN
1.Why should students of TU Darmstadt attend your lectures and/or seminars?
With the arrival of the internet and its use as a global communications medium, world culture is now undergoing a change in media comparable only to the rise of printing in Europe five hundred years ago, or to the introduction of the codex in place of the scroll, two thousand years ago. With respect to the preservation of our cultural heritage and the presentation of scholarly work, we are only just beginning to understand the nature and requirements of electronic text. One symptom of the change is the rise of Digital Humanities as an identifiable approach to the core questions of humanistic scholarship. The seminar and lab course I am teaching on the challenges of electronic publication are intended to encourage students to engage with questions of the true nature of text and its presentation, and to struggle with the potential and the current limitations of our electronic infrastructure.
Those who work most intensively with text as an object of study are, to a remarkable degree, agreed on the importance of descriptive markup as the most sustainable approach to the electronic representation of text. XML, the „extensible markup language“, is built around the concept of descriptive markup. The programming languages XSLT and XQuery are particularly well suited for processing XML documents, because unlike conventional programming languages they are built around the XML data model; they thus make high-level operations on XML documents much easier to describe than conventional programming languages. XSLT and XQuery are thus important to anyone who would like to be able to work comfortably with documents and other cultural artefacts. As purely declarative functional languages, they are also of interest to students of programming languages; the lab course (Übung) I'm giving on XSLT and XQuery will try to give students a strong hands-on understanding of these important tools.
2.Why did you choose TU Darmstadt for your KIVA Visiting Professorship?
I've had friendly relations for several years now with the program in Digital Humanities here; I have seen first-hand the high quality of work being done here and the high quality of the students attracted to the program.
When they invited me to visit for a semester, I had no hesitation at all in accepting the invitation.
3.At TU Darmstadt and especially in the context of KIVA interdisciplinarity has a high importance. Which are the connections between your area of teaching and research to other thematic fields and disciplines?
The Digital Humanities is, by its nature, an interdisciplinary field. It seeks to apply tools and concepts developed in computer science to the problem areas of traditional humanities disciplines -- including, but not limited to, the study of language and literature. And conversely, by pursuing a careful, intellectually adequate digital representation of text and other cultural artefacts, the Digital Humanities can contribute to the enrichment of computer science and information technology. The participation of digital humanists in the development of XML and related technologies is one example of such a feedback mechanism.
4.What is your perfect balance to a stressful working day?
After an afternoon of back-to-back classes, I find a stroll through the Herrengarten a great stress reliever. And on weekends, I have found the Oberfeld and the Fasanerie wonderful places for walks.