The question of how academic web projects should cite and be cited has yet to be adequately addressed. The main problem is that web technologies change faster than citation authorities like The MLA Handbook, The APA Publication Manual, and The Chicago Manual of Style can print new editions. And since these authorities are responsible primarily for dealing with the ever-changing editorial conventions of the print industry, their resources are spread too thinly to deal with the full scope of questions related to web citation. This blog series calls for a new authoritative body to govern issues of web citation in the way that the MLA, the APA, and the Chicago manuals maintain editorial standards of print citation. The resulting manual should be collaborative, open-source, and subject to change, following the model of the Text Encoding Initiative, the consortium that maintains encoding standards for digital texts.
Print-focussed style manuals have been forced in recent years to integrate Internet citation into their existing systems, but these integrations have had mixed results. For example, the MLA's addition of a medium designation at the end of each entry in the works cited list has helped to distinguish between print and web resources. But the "web" designation does little to distinguish between the various types of web sources. In some instances, it may be crucial to communicate whether a cited work is availble as an open source or only by subscription. Digital scholars need to collaborate to adapt existing print citation standards in a way that makes sense for web projects.
I began confronting issues of web citation as a research assistant and text encoder for The Map of Early Modern London, or MoEML, as we have begun to call it. The project layers historical data on the Agas map of London (1570–1605?), and will soon link references to historical locations mentioned by John Stow in his Survey of London (1598). The website also features an encyclopedia of born-digital articles describing the people, places, and organizations of early modern London. These entries refer frequently to digital resources like British History Online (BHO), the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), and Early English Books Online (EEBO), but developing consistent ways of pointing our readers to information on these sites has been a challenge.
In the following series of blog posts, I will share some of MoEML's citation problems and discuss my proposed solutions. I invite responses from web publishers confronting similar challenges, and hope that together we can draft some practical solutions that may become the basis for a collaborative web citation manual.