Abstract: Is there a text in this edition? On the implications of multiple media and immersive technology for the future of the “scholarly edition.”

By Daniel Paul O’Donnell, University of Lethbridge, James Graham, University of Lethbridge, Catherine Karkov, University of Leeds, Roberto Rosselli Del Turco, Università degli studi di Torino. To be read November 23, 2012 European Society for Textual Scholarship, Amsterdam.

In the last decade, advances in technology have taken the edition out of the library. Where there were once relatively clear demarcations among textual scholars, archaeologists, musicians, sculptors, curators, architects, and popularists, these lines have been blurred as scholars of every stripe have been encouraged by technology to think more and more expansively about how they represent primary cultural material in scholarly form. “Editions” and other forms of scholarly mediations of cultural artifacts are becoming increasingly ambitious in their representation of the relevant context. Recent projects have attempted to present objects in the context of 3-D reconstructions of their physical environment (Virtual Morgantown Project) or even the sound environments in which they might have been performed or perceived (Wall). This development is significant for several reasons. In the first place, it represents a potentially fundamental challenge to our understanding of the purpose of “the edition.” In the past, editors edited texts. They examined books and manuscripts and other forms of text-carrying media, (usually) documented the physical appearance of individual witnesses in some way, and then extracted and represented the contents of these witnesses through transcription and some form of editorial remediation. An edition might include some kind of representation of the physical context in which a text was found, especially in the last twenty-years with the rise of the digital edition and cheap digital photographic reproduction. But the focus remained primarily on the represented text.

As technology has improved our ability to capture, represent, and reconstruct both the form of the original media and the context in which it was found, however, this understanding of the task of the editor is coming under increasing pressure. Early digital expansions of the “edition” involved its mainstream extension to other kinds of documents, such as maps (Foys 2003; Jancey 1995). More recently “editorial” approaches are beginning to be applied to non-document based objects including statues, buildings, and geographic areas.

The second reason why this development is significant is that it places immense pressure on the scholarly rhetorical conventions of the edition. Over the centuries editors have developed various approaches to encoding meta-information about the scholarly process into their editions: from things as simple as the use of square brackets to indicate emendation to more complex and often implicit understandings about the level of transcriptional detail represented in the critical apparatus. Similar conventions, such as cross hatching and the use of plain white media to represent reconstructions are used in Museums and Archaeology (see Sutton, Arkush, and Schneider 2009).

As representations become more immersive and as the representation of “the text” begins to merge with the representation of a text’s context, however, these conventions are beginning to break down. How does one distinguish among levels of reconstructive certainty in an immersive environment? Indicate the supported historical aspects of a recreated audio environment? Distinguish the hypothetical from the documented in a 3D representation?

This paper examines these questions looking at recent examples of the “expansive edition” and drawing on the current experience of the Visionary Cross Project (http://www.visionarycross.org/) as it puts together the first part of what is intended to be a highly interactive, expansive scholarly representation of the “Visionary Cross” cultural matrix in Anglo-Saxon England as it is found in several Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and objects: the Ruthwell, Bewcastle, and Brussels cross, and the Vercelli Book of Old English poetry.

Works cited

Foys, Martin K. 2003. The Bayeux Tapestry. Leicester: SDE.

Jancey, Meryl. 1995. Mappa Mundi the Map of the World at Hereford Cathedral. Hereford: Dean and Chapter.

Sutton, Mark Q, Brooke S Arkush, and Joan S Schneider. 2009. Archaeological laboratory methods : an introduction. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co.

Virtual Morgantown Project. “Virtual Morgantown – HumanitiesGIS.” http://virtualmorgantown.org/.

Wall, John N. “The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project.” http://virtualpaulscrossproject.blogspot.ca/.

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