Sophisticated digital platforms and infrastructures offer scholarly editors opportunities to make textual materials accessible and negotiable online. Still, we feel pressure to reify the passive reading experience within a web browser. The challenge lies in constructing (or reconstructing) our texts to best provide for dynamic text and data analysis, making that data linkable, and anticipating publication modes that are still on the horizon.
REED London, developing from the Records of Early English Drama and in partnership with the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC), is establishing an openly accessible online scholarly resource of London-centric documentary, editorial, and bibliographic materials related to performance spanning the period 1100-1642. Defying more traditional conceptions of an edition as an individual text or curated corpus of texts connected by specific generic or biographical constructs, REED London draws from archival and contemporary printed materials that have as their connective tissue references to performance in London. As the project team develops the collection we are taking the time to think more carefully about how these materials will be of best use to scholars and students beyond the field of theatre history, and how to make the most of the process of remediation.
In this paper I will use REED London as an exemplar, focusing on this moment in electronic publishing history when we can rethink what it means to publish online. Should we be content to present a constrained browser-defined text? Should we focus on the underlying text-as-data that will allow us to be more responsive to the as-yet unrealized needs of a broader audience? Or should we seek to encompass both, developing environments that are responsive to the scholarly needs of our audiences? If we choose the latter, for how long can we resist the temptation or expectation to put something “finished” online?