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eXist-DB and XQuery for Building the Web Infrastructure of a Digital Scholarly Edition, DiXiT | DAH | An Foras Feasa, Maynooth University

1. Abstract

DiXiT and DAH Ireland present a summer school on using eXist-DB and XQuery to build the web infrastructure of a Digital Scholarly Edition.

We are very happy to announce that the course will be taught by Wolfgang Meier, the creator of the eXist-DB XML database and web platform, along with other experts in the field.

The school is aimed at students and researchers in Digital Scholarly Editing who already have a strong background in XML, XSLT and XPath (as well as HTML and CSS) and wish to further develop their knowledge of web infrastructures for editions.

“General idea: no boring talks (apart from the bare minimum), hands-on, user-driven to an extent (meaning that if users only want to have Guinness we still force them to do eXist first!) with a goal of creating an app for a DSE at the end” — Magdalena Turska, co-organiser The course is intended to be very hands-on. As well as learning to use eXist, students will work in groups throughout the week to put their knowledge into practice and build a small, working edition.

The course will take place in An Foras Feasa at Maynooth Univeristy, Ireland, from the 1st to the 5th September 2015. There will be a short refresher course, covering XPath and XSLT, on 29th and 31st August. However, the main course is at an advanced level: students will be expected to have experience of XML and other X-technologies. All teaching will be in English.

2. Why?

There are a lot of very good summer schools that deal with encoding texts using the TEI and XML. There are some that cover data transformations — for example, outputting HTML pages from TEI. The next step, building a fully-fledged web application for a Digital Scholarly Edition, seems to be missing. Hence this course.

eXistDB is a native XML database that stores and allows rapid querying of data in XML format. It is also a web framework, allowing easy(/easier) creation of web applications using the XQuery programming language. It has been used to create a whole load of humanities projects, including, for example, William Godwin’s Diary (which was built by James Cummings, who, incidentally, will be teaching a part of this course.)

3. Groups, Workshops, Encoded Data

This course will be run as a series of group-based workshops, combined with presentations and lectures. Instead of looking at some arbitrary examples as part of a lecture, each group will work together over the course of the week to put together a small, working Digital Scholarly Edition.

Students will be asked to form groups of four on the first day, and select an already encoded set of TEI documents as the basis of their edition. Students are encouraged to bring along some data that their group might use.

Alternatively, Maynooth University is in the process of building the Letters of 1916 project, which means we have a good selection of encoded documents if anyone fancies working with these instead.

4. Requirements

The course is split into two parts. Part one is a refresher in XML technologies, particularly XPath and XSLT. It is absolutely not an introduction to TEI or XML — you will need a good level of proficiency already in order to follow up the course.

As a rule of thumb, if you went to the Graz Spring School in Advanced XML Technologies, you should be fine. In fact, you should have already had a brief crash-course in setting up eXist.

Otherwise, if you like the look of this, can sort of see what’s going on, and are keen to find out more, you will probably be fine.

It is also not really a course in front-end web design. A working knowledge of HTML is necessary, but we don’t expect you to be a CSS guru or JavaScript ninja (unless you are).

You will need to bring a laptop with you and, ideally, have eXist already installed. (If you were at the Graz School, you will have it installed.) Instructions are here. Of course, installing anything is potentially temperamental, so we will try have a short session in the evening of Monday 31st August to help anyone who is having problems.

5. People

Wolfgang Meier is the developer of the eXist-DB platform, and director of eXist Solutions.

Alexander Czmiel is a developer and lecturer at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

James Cummings is the Senior Academic Research Technology Specialist, IT Services, at the University of Oxford, and a DiXiT Partner

Magdalena Turska is a DiXiT Experienced Researcher at Oxford, currently involved with the development of TEI-Simple. Magdalena is a co-organiser of the course.

Richard Hadden is a DiXiT Early Stage Researcher based in Maynooth, and is co-organising the course. He knows nothing about eXist really, and the more cynical of you might be inclined to think that this course is entirely for his benefit. He couldn’t possibly comment on this.

6. Places

An Foras Feasa

An Foras Feasa is one of Maynooth’s flagship institutes in the Faculty of Arts, Celtic Studies, and Philosophy facilitating and encouraging research across the Faculty. It does this by hosting a wide variety of public events and lectures, a Visiting Fellow programme, and supporting funded research.

7. Course Schedule

Saturday 29 August 2015

Monday 31 August 2015

James Cummings and Magdalena Turska. Date: August 2015
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