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  • Cultural Mapping and the Digital Sphere: Place and Space ed. by Ruth Panofsky and Kathleen Kellett
  • Jason Boyd
Ruth Panofsky and Kathleen Kellett, eds. Cultural Mapping and the Digital Sphere: Place and Space. University of Alberta Press. xvi, 312. $39.95

As the foreword notes, this collection of fourteen essays by thirty authors finds its origin in the 2011 conference of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory/Collaboratoire scientifique des écrits du Canada (CWRC/CSÉC,, a digital humanities cyberinfrastructure project combining a repository and a toolkit for empowering new collaborative modes of Canada-focused scholarly production. In the preface, the editors write that the arrangement of the collection "highlights the exciting research possibilities in the eclectic and versatile field of digital humanities." This is perhaps an overstatement when it comes to the collection as a whole, since for half of the essays these possibilities remain latent. Although the "digital sphere" might not always be present, "cultural mapping" is a pervasive theme of the collection, with essays addressing issues of maps/mapping, place, space, and movement or circulation between.

Part One, "Place and the Digital Sphere," opens with essays concerning two major collaborative digital humanities projects based in Canada, Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present and Editing Modernism in Canada (EMiC). The Orlando essay describes the challenges of using the semantic markup of references to place that are found in the Orlando text base for map-based visualizations, given that place names and what they designate are subject to historical change; the EMiC essay describes the development of a Project Charter that represents an understanding and agreement about how the multidisciplinary teams of University of Alberta-based EMiC projects undertake mutually beneficial collaboration. Continuing this subject focus, the remaining five essays address research questions in relation to what might be termed the technical or infrastructural aspects of digital projects: how a digital research interface, the Simulated Environment for Theatre (SET), can illuminate the performance history of Judith Thompson's play White Biting Dog; using the digital edition of Canadian Bookman (1909–41) as a test case for the research value of International Standard Text Code (ISTC), an identification standard that connects publications with the same textual content; the potential of creative or ludic mapping tools and strategies for storytelling (Neatline, Edmonton Pipelines); the tension between markup standards and the fluid and shifting categories of sexual and gender identity of people included in the Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada (LGLC) project.

In distinction to Part One, the essays of Part Two, "Writers and Readers: Mapping Textual Space," focus not on digital humanities issues but on (chiefly) analyses of literary texts. Three of the essays are in French. The first group of essays explores the "interpretative power of spatio-temporal analysis," examining the role of the postcard in the viral spread of Salomania (incited by dancer Maud Allen's "The Vision of Salome"), the [End Page 123] cartographic imagination of Maud Irwin, as reflected in her Torontobased fiction, and interconnections between cities (childhood in pre- and post-WWII Berlin, then Tunis, Montreal, Paris, Toronto) in the autofiction of Marguerite Andersen. The remaining essays embody the "serious study of the ludic possibilities of literary space," including the potentially transgressive space of translation, the enchanted space of Quebec as found in Anne Hébert's novel Les enfants du sabbat, the relationship between languages in the memoirs and autofiction of two Vietnamese-Canadian writers, and a call to study the "readerly experience" of a text, using as a case study the author's own long and evolving personal history with Mary Quayle Innis's novel, Stand on a Rainbow (1943). In its final pages, this last essay brings the collection back to the topic of digitally enabled collaborative scholarship, envisioning a database of similar reader histories and arguing: "With our massive digital affordances, we are in a position to consider ways in which we might mark the activities and achievements of a book's readers located in time and space."

This is an eclectic collection that spans a wide range of scholarly activities and texts that are interrelated in largely implicit ways...


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pp. 123-124
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