The Scholarly Digital Edition and the Humanities

Theoretical approaches and alternative tools - DigiLab La Sapienza, 3-5 December 2014

The Scholarly Digital Edition and the Humanities. Theoretical approaches and alternative tools

DigiLab La Sapienza, 3-5 December 2014
Vetreria Sciarra – Via dei Volsci 122, 00185 Roma
Room 110

Workshop organized by DigiLab - DiXiT Marie Curie Network

The aim of this workshop is to present a critical approach to the digital representation of textual artefacts in the context of Humanities and Social Sciences. While the imperatives of digitization are affecting at a global level our cultural organizations and institutions, it seems necessary to introduce a socio-cultural reflection into the realm of the scholarly digital edition. The workshop is organized in practical and theoretical sessions led by Desmond Schmidt (Queensland University of Technology), Paolo Monella (Università di Palermo) and Domenico Fiormonte (Università Roma Tre). Participants will be guided through the realization of a digital product, experimenting with some innovative digital editions tools and platforms.

The workshop is open to all students registered for postgraduate and doctoral programs (PhD or equivalent) anywhere in the world working in the field of Digital Humanities and Social Sciences. Some basic experience in scholarly editing and textual criticism is recommended.

Attendance is free of charge, but registration is required for all applicants. Twelve positions are reserved for DiXiT fellows.

The format of the workshop is multicultural, i.e. participants and speakers will be free to speak in their mother tongue or instead use English as lingua franca. All teaching material will be translated in English, except original cultural artifacts. Given the practical nature of the workshop we can accommodate up to 25 participants.  

Workshop coordinator: Domenico Fiormonte
Scientific Board: Domenico Fiormonte, Gianfranco Crupi, Giovanni Ragone
Organization: Federico Caria, Isabella Tartaglia.

Please register online at: https://digilab-scholarly-digital-edition.eventbrite.com
Registration will be open up to November 26

For more information please contact: digilab@uniroma1.it

Abstracts of the main lectures

Domenico Fiormonte, Università Roma Tre

The socio-cultural foundations of the scholarly digital edition

Digital languages and instruments are not just powerful tools for simplifying and enhancing the work of humanists and social scientists, but they create new cultural representations and self-representations that transform both the epistemological framework and the practice of science. As Friedrich Kittler would put it, is it still in our power to code (encode reality), or rather is code to impose on us its biases and constraints? In this presentation I will discuss some of the fundamental nodes of an epistemological transformation that has already challenged the way we have conceived and practiced the work of reconstruction, conservation and representation of our cultural heritage artefacts.

Paolo Monella, Università di Palermo

The digital encoding of pre-modern writing systems

In my contribution I will offer a critical analysis of the question of digital encoding of primary sources whose writing systems were introduced before the normalisaton brought about by printing technology. After a discussion of the relevant theoretical issues, participants will be asked to produce a digital transcription of several lines of a Latin manuscript, analyse the relevant XML/TEI P5 guidelines, based uniquely on the application of Unicode, and explore alternative methods for implementing the "table of signs" theorised by Tito Orlandi.

Desmond Schmidt, Queensland University of Technology 

The Digital Scholarly Edition: what is it and how do we make it?

For millennia the scholarly edition has been built around archiving, comparison, annotation, citation, searching and indexing of the text. In the digital medium these activities won’t disappear, only the way in which we do them. But the digital scholarly edition (DSE) is also gathering and presenting information about the context of the work and of the author. This or other paratextual content is important because it extends the edition beyond the narrow interests of scholars into a 'factually rich' knowledge-site that attracts a wider audience. But the DSE is not just on the Web, it is also the eBook. As with the print scholarly edition, any strategy for building DSEs must involve publishers in helping to sustain the expense of creating them.

The DSE is best conceived as having an abstract function and structure, rather than defined by any particular technology. Technologies come and go, but humanists need continuity and principles to build on. Unfortunately for this requirement, the DSE is a piece of software. As such we must think about the needs of users first, or the end-result will literally be use-less. The approach so far has been the exact opposite: looking first at the texts and their encoding, then finding useful things to do with it, and finally presenting it to users, using visual forms borrowed from print. Just as with the transition in the 15th century between the manuscript codex and the printed book, we must rebuild our methods completely to suit the new medium.

The most serious problem faced by the creator of a DSE is communication between technologists and humanists. This often fails, with dire consequences. The underlying cause is the fact that software development is an engineering activity of little interest to the average digital humanist. But if software engineers are any good at their job, they will be able to build iteratively, with the continuous help of humanists at every stage, easy to use tools that do not force their users to become programmers in order to do their work.