"… But What Should {I} Put in a Digital Apparatus?" {A} Not-So-Obvious Choice: New Types of Digital Scholarly Editions

Paolino Onofrio Monella

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We propose to develop / expand the concept of “digital edition of a text”. The specific value of a digital edition is not only in the digital form of representation of textual information: dynamic rather than static, resulting in better visual or practical usability, but it mainly lays in the ability to work with computational methods on the text and on the information it conveys. Therefore the digital edition of a text should aim to provide adequate data and functionality to further forms of processing.Hence the idea that the “digital scholarly edition” until now often identified with the “digital critical edition”, can also take other forms focused on other types of ‘scholarly research’: from the geographical knowledge contained in the text, to the historical knowledge (time and events) often inextricably linked with the prosopography, and much more.
 If the digital critical edition is a type of digital scholarly edition containing an apparatus that analyzes and describes the state of the text in the witnesses, then we can conceive e.g. the digital scholarly geographical edition of a work – whose apparatus contains an analytical description of the geographical knowledge contained in the placenames; the digital critical geographical edition whose geographical apparatus is layered over a base critical edition:The knowledge contained in the text must be expressed in a highly formal manner – the same way that the critical apparatus is a highly formal device – by means of an ontology. The ontology both from a philosophical or a computer science point of view is a structure aimed to analyse and describe the categorical hierarchy of a specific domain, analysing its basic constituents (entities like objects, events, processes, etc.), the properties characterizing them and the relationships which correlate them. The resulting (structural) representation of knowledge allows to resolve conceptual or terminological inconsistencies, providing a dictionary of terms formulated in a canonical syntax and with commonly accepted definitions. It also provides a lexical or taxonomic framework for the representation of knowledge, shared by different communities of information systems that can range across several domains.From a scholarly point of view we can also add that digital critical editions of classical works whose textual tradition is made of many witnesses are still very rare. The ancient literatures scholars usually ask to the digital no more than authoritative collections of texts (TLG, PHI, and online digital libraries). So the opportunity to enrich the digital text with variants (especially from a new collation of manuscripts) has known little practical application. The peculiar nature of textual variance in classical texts, where the discarded lesson is a mistake to recognize and remove, contributes to this closure face to the opportunities of the digital. Consequently a digital critical edition aimed to include a bigger number of variants – that is ‘errors’ – than in printed format is unsustainable in terms of cost / benefit evaluation. Thus a new space for reflection opens, no longer linked to the form (that is to the textual tradition) but to the content of the text formally analysed in the apparatus, which might be thought of as a space open to contain other, new, kinds of knowledge.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteAdvances in Digital Scholarly Editing. Papers presented at the DiXiT conferences in The Hague, Cologne, and Antwerp
Numero di pagine3
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2017
Pubblicato esternamenteYes

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