We, Julie and Marianne, took part in the international workshop on Periodicals and Digitalization organized by the Transnational Periodical Cultures research group at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany in the second week of December 2018. The Workshop brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to discuss how the increasing digitization of periodicals  from newspapers and magazines to popular scientific journals and natively digital publications  affords a myriad of opportunities to research content, publishing practices, and impact. In focusing on the periodical as a medium, instead of a time period or thematic focus, or even a method of analysis, the challenges that we all face as periodical scholars were also discussed in detail.

The Workshop started out with a talk from Oliver Emrich (JGU Mainz) on “Experimental Research in Business and Media,” with an example of periodical publication in modern social media and explaining effects and motivation of social media postings. In the second talk Silvia Hansen-Schirra (JGU Mainz) presented her group’s work on “Digital Processing of Popular Scientific Magazines.” This research explored a massive Natural Language Processing pipeline from the technical aspects of processing large corpora of different formats, preparing the texts in various formats or the various tools to conduct linguistic and content analysis of the articles. This elaborate pipeline allows the researcher to generate numerous data points for comparing texts and magazines, from undertaking text encoding, identifying parts of speech and reading strategies through eye tracking devices. The third talk was given by Johan Jarlbrink (Umeå University), on “Reading Newspapers and Following Files in the Digital Archive,” on the noise generated by digitization and how we deal with it. Through the case of the nineteenth-century Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, Jarlbrink explored how the electric telegraph was discussed across one newspaper and in doing so discovered a lot of “digital noise”, such as faulty OCR and incorrect auto-segmentation, in getting the text in the format necessary for computational analysis. This noise, he argued is part of the process, much like the by-products of newspaper printing, the leftovers of paper production, the recycling and reuse of papers, etc… We closed the workshop with a talk on “Mapping Reprinting Practices: A Network Analysis of Items Sourced from Der Bazar and Affiliated Journals, 1860-1870,” where we presented a method for identifying illustration reuse and patterns of reuse across three nineteenth-century fashion periodicals in different languages.

The Workshop afforded stimulating discussions on our responsibilities as researchers in the digitization pipeline, dealing with larger corpora, its affordances and challenges. It was a pleasure to meet colleagues studying periodicals from so many different perspectives and to partake in the discussions about the future of periodical studies as a field.

Julie Birkholz and Marianne Van Remoortel

09/01/2019