[Humanist] 23.186 what difference? digital editions?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jul 25 10:21:37 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 186.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Martin Mueller <martinmueller at NORTHWESTERN.EDU>           (38)
        Subject: Re: What difference does digital make?

  [2]   From:    Peter Anderson <anderspe at GVSU.EDU>                        (13)
        Subject: Digital editions/commentaries

        Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2009 19:13:03 +0100
        From: Martin Mueller <martinmueller at NORTHWESTERN.EDU>
        Subject: Re: What difference does digital make?
        In-Reply-To: <4A698E49020000CF000366C9 at gvsu.edu>

The other day I had a conversation with a colleague who in a friendly,  
but skeptical and pointed way asked whether all this digital stuff  
made an important difference.  It is still a good question. In the  
domain of text-based scholarship, classical philology (broadly  
construed) is an important test case. It is the only discipline of  
substantial generic, linguistic, and diachronic scope of which it can  
be said that all or most of the relevant documents exist in fairly  
good and moderately interoperable form. There is no TLG or anything  
like it for English, German, or any other language. There is All of  
Old English and All of Old Norse, but those are boutique operations.

Thus Classical philology on the face of it is a discipline where you  
could no longer blame the absence of a good enough cyber  
infrastructure for the lack of scholarly 'progress' (always a  
problematical word) or at least significant  difference. If it has not  
mattered much in Classics, it is unlikely to matter much elsewhere. If  
there is good evidence about significant and worthwhile change in  
Classics, it has deep implications for other disciplines where the  
digital documentary infrastructure is still much more fragmentary.

Where is that difference and what do we know about it? I don't think  
that significant change is necessarily measured in dramatic  
breakthroughs. It is more likely to happen in slow, subtle, and  
pervasive ways. But it ought to be measurable in some fashion.  The  
TLG has now been around almost 30 years and for close to 20 years  
access to it has been within technical and financial reach of anybody  
who care.

What difference has it made? What kinds of inquiry are possible now  
that were not practicable then? How do books and articles benefit from  
changed modes of access to the documentary base of classical  
philology? (I am not talking here about changed modes of access to  
secondary literature, because that is a phenomenon that applies with  
more or less equal force to all disciplines).

I am inclined to believe that it has made a difference. But does  
anybody have evidence good enough to persuade my hard-nosed colleague  
that my belief is well grounded?

        Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2009 16:48:11 +0100
        From: Peter Anderson <anderspe at GVSU.EDU>
        Subject: Digital editions/commentaries
        In-Reply-To: <4A698E49020000CF000366C9 at gvsu.edu>

[This query forwarded from the Digital Classicist. --WM]

Dear colleagues,

I am a relative newcomer to the issues that many of you have been addressing for years, and so I am writing with no small measure of humility (or anxiety :) ). I'm in the planning stages of an xml edition and commentary (on Seneca's De Constantia Sapientis), working with a colleague in our school of computing, who will lend his expertise to construct the user interface. I have not yet found any projects that are yet working on establishing, for instance, tags for the different elements one would find in a "traditional" commentary; I can see that there are likely many existing descriptions from a range of other projects (e.g. variant readings). I am most interested in creating a wheel that other philologists will happily use and, of course, not recreating one where a good one exists. 

I shall be very grateful for any comments/wisdom, on or off list.

Peter J Anderson
Department of Classics
267 Lake Huron Hall
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI
616.331.3611 (office)   616.331.3775 (fax)

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