Princeton Prosody Archive Honored by Fast Company

The Princeton Prosody Archive (PPA) may take users all the way back to 1570, but its design is of-the-moment.

The PPA, a Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) sponsored project, is one of a handful of education-related initiatives recognized as part of business magazine Fast Company ’s 2020 Innovation by Design Awards, receiving an honorable mention in the Learning category.

Graphic featuring the Princeton Prosody Archive homepage
The PPA's design is influenced by the style of the 1980s, in recognition of the project's original source: T. V. F. Brogan's annotated bibliography, English Versification, 1570-1980, A Reference Guide with a Global Appendix (1981).

Consistent with Fast Company’s emphasis on creativity and technology, the Innovation by Design Awards celebrate "designers and businesses solving the problems of today and tomorrow." Applicants are judged "on the key ingredients of innovation: functionality, originality, beauty, sustainability, user insight, cultural impact, and business impact."

Because of the PPA’s achievement, CDH staff were invited to attend this week’s Fast Company Innovation Festival. Among the speakers were Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, and Princeton computer science professor Olga Russakovsky.

The PPA, spearheaded by CDH Faculty Director Meredith Martin and built by the CDH development and design team, is an open-source, full-text searchable database of more than 4,000 digitized works on prosody, the study of versification and pronunciation. Available on the database are grammar handbooks, poetic treatises, and versification manuals, among other materials dating from 1570 to 1923.

As the only large-scale corpus focused on the study of prosody and poetry in the English language, the PPA reveals how poetry was read in the past. It sheds light on an array of topics, such as the development of the study of poetics as a linguistic science and the history of English literature.

The website also includes an editorial section with resources for teachers as well as reflections on the history of the PPA as a project. Two essays written by undergraduate researchers are forthcoming.

Active since 2007, the PPA launched a new website in 2019. The redesigned site, with an 1980s-inspired style, offers improved search functionality, seven hand-curated collections, and a histogram feature that allows users to see how the materials in the database are distributed over time.

The PPA has been a collaborative effort from the start, with many undergraduates, graduate students, staff and faculty members contributing to the project in its 13-year history.

The new version of the PPA was designed by Xinyi Li and Gissoo Doroudian. The development team consisted of Rebecca Sutton Koeser as technical lead, along with Nick Budak and Ben Hicks. Special recognition goes to Doroudian, who entered the PPA in the Fast Company competition.

CDH Senior Project Management Fellow Mary Naydan, a Ph.D. candidate in English, currently serves as the PPA project manager, succeeding Meagan Wilson, now a member of the PPA Advisory Board. Rebecca Munson provided project management support.

Look for a mention of the PPA in the next issue of Fast Company magazine, available on October 20.

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