Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), considered by many to be one of the most important philosophers of all time, published only one philosophical work during his lifetime: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921/22). In return, he left a total of around 20,000 handwritten and typewritten pages, which is called Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. Before his death, Wittgenstein commissioned three of his good friends and students – Rush Rhees, Elizabeth Anscombe and Georg Henrik von Wright – to publish these writings, a work former WAB fellow Christian Erbacher has brilliantly described in the book Wittgenstein’s Heirs and Editors.
For almost 30 years now, the Wittgenstein Archive at the University of Bergen (WAB) has been at the forefront of publishing Wittgenstein’s Nachlass and managing the research infrastructure for it. In the year 2000, WAB’s work culminated in the publication of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass: The Bergen Electronic Edition (BEE) at Oxford University Press. WAB, which functions both as a physical and as an e-research infrastructure, is currently operated in close collaboration with the Bergen University Library (UB).
The importance of WAB’s efforts to make Wittgenstein’s Nachlass available digitally can hardly be overestimated. Since 2015 alone, Google Analytics has registered over 25,000 users who have used the resources that WAB offers via Wittgenstein Source, wittgensteinonline.no and Wittgenstein ontology explorer. This has given scholars around the world access to an invaluable source to work on Wittgenstein’s writings.
The research infrastructure that WAB offers and constantly develops has thus been and will continue to be of great importance to research environments in many different disciplines. Publications of authors who have used it can be found not only in Philosophy, but also e.g. in subjects such as Architecture; Biography research; Didactics; Digital humanities; Edition philology; Ethnology; History of Philosophy and History of Science; History research; Writing Research and Semiotics. Examples of use in public dissemination and the exhibition sector include “Die Tractatus Odyssee” (Vienna 2018) and “The Wittgenstein Corpus” (Vienna 2019).
Several ongoing projects use the computer science and computer technology content of the research infrastructure, including its methods for text coding, for innovation in fields such as text mining, similarity search, spell checking, stylometric studies, sentiment analysis, lexicography. Claus Huitfeldt’s recent Balisage presentation “Document similarity” is just one of several examples of this.
Use in the teaching and learning environment is another relevant field. A good example of this is the Centrum für Informations- und Sprachverarbeitung (CIS) at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich where so far approximately 20 bachelor’s and master’s theses have been written in computer and corpus linguistics with WAB’s coded transcriptions of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass as a base.
WAB has also been actively participating in open access research and practice, and has long been innovative in the organization of open access to cultural heritage. WAB has initiated and is an important mainstay for the international open access journal Nordic Wittgenstein Review and the book series Nordic Wittgenstein Studies. Also in this field, WAB is frequently used as a research field in international studies on open science.
WAB has long been a key player in the Digital Humanities and has a long-term ambition to help form the basis for a significant innovation in knowledge organization and research and teaching practice in the humanities as well as for research on the nature of the humanities in light of today’s digital development. Throughout the years, WAB has initiated and participated in several international research infrastructure projects. Currently, WAB participates in the Norwegian Clarino+ project.
Precisely due to the extensive use of WAB’s research infrastructure, there is also a great need for additional resources to ensure the quality and update of the actual content of the research infrastructure, i.e. the transcriptions and facsimiles of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. This involves i.a. proofreading and correcting the transcriptions, improving the reproduction of graphics and logical-mathematical notation, and adding missing facsimiles and transcriptions. With the funds from UiB’s joint post for research infrastructure, WAB will be able to employ skilled people who can contribute to these necessary updates. With these resources in place WAB can last but not least also aim for a new, revised edition of the Bergen Electronic Edition at Oxford University Press.