Using Juxta in the Classroom: Scholar’s Lab Presentation

Director of NINES Andrew Stauffer and Project Manager Dana Wheeles will be joining the UVa Scholar’s Lab today to discuss Juxta Commons and possible uses for the software in the classroom.  Below are a list of sets included in the demo to illustrate the numerous ways Juxta could draw students’ attention to textual analysis and digital humanities.

Traditional Scholarly Sets for Analysis and Research



Scholarly Sets for Classroom Engagement



Beyond traditional scholarship: born-digital texts



Our favorites from the user community



Digital Thoreau and Parallel Segmentation

[Cross-posted at]

Every now and then I like to browse the project list at, just to get an idea of what kind of work is being done in digital scholarship around the world. This really paid off recently, when I stumbled upon Digital Thoreau, an engaging and well-structured site created by a group from SUNY-Geneseo. This project centers around a TEI-encoded edition of Walden, which will, to quote their mission statement, “be enriched by annotations links, images, and social tools that will enable users to create conversations around the text.” I highly recommend that anyone interested in text encoding take a look at their genetic text demo of “Solitude,” visualized using the Versioning Machine.

What really caught my attention, however, is that they freely offer a toolkit of materials from their project, including XML documents marked up in TEI. This allowed me to take a closer look at how they encoded the text featured in the demo, and try visualizing it, myself.

This embed shows the same text featured on the Digital Thoreau site, now visualized in Juxta Commons. It is possible to import a file encoded in TEI Parallel Segmentation directly into Juxta Commons, and the software will immediately break down the file into its constituent witnesses (see this example of their base witness from Princeton) and visualize them as a comparison set.

upload screen

Uploading Parallel Segmentation



Parallel Segmentation file added and processed 


Once you’ve successfully added the file to your account, you have access to the heat map visualization (where changes are highlighted blue on the chosen base text), the side-by-side option, and a histogram to give you a global view if the differences between the texts in the set. In this way, the Juxta Commons R&D hope to enable the use of our software in concert with other open-source tools.

I should also note that Juxta Commons allows the user to export any other sets they have created as a parallel-segmented file. This is a great feature for starting an edition of your own, but it no way includes the complexity of markup one would see in files generated by a rigorous project like Digital Thoreau. We like to think of it the Parallel Segmentation and new experimental edition builder export as building blocks for future scholarly editions.

Many thanks to the team at Digital Thoreau for allowing us to make use of their scholarship!

Authenticating Google Books with Juxta Commons

What do you get when you collate as many free Google versions of the same text as you can find? Those familiar with Google Books may suggest that you’ll quickly discover rampant OCR errors, or perhaps some truly astounding misinformation in the metadata fields. In my experiment using Juxta Commons to explore the versions of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s long poem, The Princess, available online, I encountered my fill of both of these issues. But I also discovered a number of interesting textual variations – ones that led me to a deeper study of the poem’s publication history.

In the process of testing the efficacy of the software, I believe I stumbled upon a useful experiment that may prove helpful in the classroom: a new way to introduce students to textual scholarship, to the value of metadata, and to the modes of inquiry made possible by the digital humanities.

Many of the editions of Tennyson’s works offered in Google Books are modern, or modern reprints, and are thus available only in snippet view. Paging through the results, I chose six versions of the Princess that were available in e-book form, and I copied and pasted the text into the text editor in Juxta Commons*. Because the poem is relatively long, I chose to focus solely on its Prologue – not only to expedite the process of collation, but to see if one excerpt could give a more global view of changes to the poem across editions. Another important step was to click on the orange “i” button at the upper left of the screen to save original URLs and basic metadata about the object for future reference.

source info

This step turned out to be invaluable, once I realized that the publication information offered on the title pages of the scanned documents didn’t always agree with the metadata offered by Google (see this example).

Once the set was complete, and collated, I noticed right away that there were significant passages that were missing in the 1863 and 1900 editions of the poem.


Stepping chronologically through the set using the witness visibility feature (the eye icons on the left) showed no apparent timeline for this change (why would it be missing in 1863, present in 1866, 1872, 1875, and excised again in 1900?). The answer could only be found in a robust explanation of the revision and publication history of Tennyson’s work.

Without going too deeply into the reasons behind this set of differences (I’ll refer you to Christopher Ricks’ selected critical edition of Tennyson, if you’re interested), The Princess happens to be one of the most revised long poems of Tennyson’s career. The Prologue was expanded in the 5th edition (published in 1853) and it is that version that generally considered the standard reading text today. However, as we have seen from the Google Books on offer, even in 1900, editions were offered that were based on earlier versions of the poem. Could the fact that both versions missing the stanzas are American editions be important?

I invite Tennyson scholars to help me continue to piece together this puzzle. However, I believe that in this one example we have seen just how powerful Juxta Commons can be for delving into seemingly innocuous editions of one of Tennyson’s poem and exposing a myriad of possible topics of study. Next time you’re wondering just *which* version of a text you’re looking at on Google Books, I hope you’ll consider Juxta Commons a good place to start.

* Please note that Juxta Commons can accept some e-book formats, but those offered by Google Books have image information only, and the text cannot be extracted.

Featured Set: Wikipedia Article on Benghazi Attack

Guest post by NINES Fellow, Emma Schlosser. The full set is embedded at the end of this post.

Juxta Commons now offers a platform by which we can study the evolution of the most visited encyclopedia on the web—Wikipedia! The Wikipedia API feature allows users to easily collate variants that reveal changes made to articles, a useful tool when tracking the development of current events.   In light of President Obama’s recent nomination of Senator John Kerry to be Secretary of State following Susan Rice’s withdrawal of her bid for the position, I decided to trace Wikipedia’s article on the September 11th 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  The attack resulted in the tragic deaths of four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

I prepared thirteen witnesses taken from the course of the article’s history on Wikipedia, stemming back to September 14th, 2012. In selecting the variants, I chose to focus on information most pertinent to the role of Rice, who is U.S. Ambassador to the UN.  These witnesses for the most part fall under the article’s “U.S. Government Response” section.  As various editors added more information regarding the attack and its aftereffects, I noted that on September 22nd a section had been added to the article entitled “Criticism of U.S. Government Response.”

In a September 16th version of the article, an editor adds that the U.S. government has begun to doubt whether a low quality and poorly produced film circulated on YouTube entitled Innocence of Muslims was in fact behind the attack.

By September 22nd, an entire paragraph had been added to the “U.S. Government Response” section, including quotations from Senator John McCain (R, Arizona) who decried any claim that the attack was spontaneous: “Most people don’t bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to demonstrations.  That was an act of terror.”  A September 27th version reports that Susan Rice appeared on five separate news shows on the 16th, asserting that the attacks were a “spontaneous reaction to a hateful and offensive video widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.”  The 27th variant also affirms that the Benghazi attack had become a politically fueled issue during the heated presidential race.

The October 28th variant cites under the “Criticism of U.S. Government Response” section that Senator McCain specifically accused the administration of using Susan Rice to cover the true motives of the attack.

As the progression of this Wikipedia article shows, the U.S. government response to the Benghazi attack overshadowed, to some degree, the causes and nature of the attack itself.  This, of course, had much to do with the then raging U.S. presidential campaign.  Rice’s tangential role in the response to the Benghazi attack, as evidenced by the paucity of references to her within the article, implicitly reveals the nature of political scapegoating.  Thanks to Juxta’s Wikipedia API feature it was easy for me to trace the evolution of an article on a contemporary controversy, revealing the methods by which we continually modify and interpret our understanding of current events.

MLA 2013 Reception: Saturday 1/5

For all those attending the Modern Languages Association Conference in Boston this year, please join NINES Directory Andrew Stauffer and Performant Software for a reception in the exhibit hall (Booth 717) on Saturday, January 5. We’ll be running demos of Juxta Commons and answering your questions about NINES, Juxta and digital humanities software in general.

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Tonya Howe, the winner of our Juxta Commons sharing competition, leading up to the MLA Conference in Boston (#MLA13). Be sure to have a look at the side-by-side view of her comparison set, Legend of Good Women, Prologues A and B.

We’ll be featuring the set in the Juxta Commons gallery in the very near future, along with some of the other sets that received lots of interest in the last month.

Juxta Commons sharing competition

**Updated with more details about the competition**

Juxta Commons users – share your favorite comparison set today, and the set with the most views in the next month wins the user free swag!

Create and share a collation set and get the MOST UNIQUE VIEWS in one month.  You’ll win a lovely Juxta Commons commuter coffee mug, plus fame and glory.  We will be keeping track via analytics, and we will announce the winner in early January.

You can share your visualizations by Twitter, Facebook, Google +, link, email and embed, so there are lots of ways to get the word out.

Remember that we are still in beta and are particularly interested in load-testing the site, so bear with us if you experience slow-downs.  You can send us feedback and bug reports via our Google Group and you can find information about using the site on our User Guide.

The winner will be announced at our presentation at MLA. Happy collating!

Re-visualizing in Juxta:

The Juxta R&D team recently did a demo of Juxta Commons at a DH Day conference at NC State University, and one of the attendees brought the site to our attention. It’s a great resource, tracking changes to online, “published” articles from some of the largest media outlets out there. But, while NewsDiffs brings together a bunch of different versions of these online articles, their visualizations are only helpful for two versions at a time.

As an experiment, I took several versions from this example and plugged them into Juxta Commons. When combined in the heat map, the results were truly surprising.

In this example, the newest version (captured on November 6, 2012) is the base witness, with the previous revisions made on the day of the articles release included in the set. Just imagine: readers visiting the New York Times article at 11:15am would have read a very different set of opening paragraphs than those checking in at 11:45am.



Using the Critical Apparatus in Digital Scholarship


As the Juxta R&D team has worked to take the desktop version of our collation software to the web, I’ve found myself thinking a great deal about the critical apparatus and its role when working with digital (digitized?) texts.

In the thumbnails above, you can see a page image from a traditional print edition (in this case, of Tennyson’s poetry) on the left, and a screenshot of the old Juxta critical apparatus output on the right. In the original, downloadable, version of Juxta, we allowed users to browse several visualizations of the collation in order to target areas of interest, but we also offered them the ability to export their results in an HTML-encoded apparatus. This was an effort to connect digital scholarship to traditional methods of textual analysis, as well as a way to allow scholars to share their findings with others in a familiar medium.

It has become clear to me, based on the feedback from our users, that this HTML critical apparatus has been quite useful for a number of scholars. Even though our output could seem cryptic without being paired with the text of the base witness (as it is in the Tennyson edition), it was apparent that scholars still needed to translate their work in Juxta into the traditional format.

 In the meantime, scholars working with the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) developed Parallel Segmentation, a method of encoding the critical apparatus in XML. In her article,  “Knowledge Representation and Digital Scholarly Editions in Theory and Practice,” Tanya Clement describes the effectiveness of using parallel segmentation to encode her digital edition of the work of the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.  Using a TEI apparatus along with a visualization tool called the Versioning Machine, Clement argued that her project “encourage[d] critical inquiry concerning how a digital scholarly edition represents knowledge differently than a print edition,” and illustrated the flexibility of working with full texts in tandem. Witnesses, or alternate readings, were not subsumed under a (supposedly static) base text, but living, dynamic representations of the social and cultural networks within which the Baroness lived and wrote.

Working with digital texts can make generating a critical apparatus difficult. One could encode your apparatus manually, as Clement did, but most users of Juxta wanted us to take their plain text or XML-encoded files and transform them automatically. The traditional apparatus requires exact notations of line numbers and details about the printed page. How does one do that effectively when working with plain text files that bear no pagination and few (if any) hard returns, denoting line breaks? Instead of hurriedly replicating the desktop apparatus online –knowing it would posses these weaknesses and more — the R&D team chose to offer TEI Parallel Segmentation output for Juxta Commons.

Juxta TEI  Parallel Segmentation export

Any user of Juxta Commons can upload a file encoded in TEI Parallel Segmentation, and see their documents represented in Juxta’s heat map, side-by-side, and histogram views. Those working with plain text of XML files can also export the results of their collations as a downloadable TEI Parallel Segmentation file. In short, Juxta Commons and can both read and write TEI Parallel Segmentation.

However, we’re not convinced that the traditional apparatus has lost its functionality. We’d like to ask you, our users, to tell us more about your needs. How do you use the critical apparatus in your studies? What other kind of apparatus could we offer to streamline and enhance your work in Juxta Commons?

A Preview of Juxta Commons

The NINES R&D team is happy to announce a new phase of testing for Juxta online: Juxta Commons. We’re entering our final phase of intensive testing on this new site for using Juxta on the web, which breaks down the processes of the desktop application so you always have access to your raw source files and your witnesses, in addition to your comparison sets. We’ve even added more ways to work with XML, as well as an option to import and export files encoded in TEI Parallel Segmentation.

We have invited a group of scholars and users to try out Juxta Commons for the next two months, and share their experiences online. They’ll be exploring new ways to add source files, filter XML content and browse our newly-updated visualizations, previewed in the gallery above.

If you would like to be a part of this group of testers, please leave a comment below, and we’ll get in touch with you.