Andrea Consalvi, Paolo Monella, La Latin Grammarians Collection: aspetti metodologici di una risorsa digitale

Introduction: are digital scholarly edition worth it? What is the added value of the computational technologies in a critical digital edition? Why should a textual scholar choose digital over print in this specific field? The drawbacks of the digital choice include additional training and costs, slower workflow, less interoperability and durability. Do its 'pluses' balance them out, or even surpass them? 1. Funding The additional funding that research funding agencies seem eager to pour on projects involving digital aspects is producing an (etymologically) preposterous situation: instead of inquiring whether digital methods can help their research, many applicants first decide that some digital must be involved, they try to find out how. But I think that we can all agree that, if we want to be intellectually honest, we should not take the economic metaphor of the 'added value' so literally as to consider increased funding opportunities per se a 'plus' for the Humanities. Otherwise, the digital contribution to our research will be mostly cosmetic today, and the relative funding will eventually dry out – as it happens with shallow trends. 2. Availability The availability of large textual corpora is compensated, on the negative side, by the interoperability and durability issues I mentioned above. Also, the goal of creating and making comprehensively textual corpora available has long been achieved, and hardly complex digital models and formats such as plain text or PDF are sufficient for the purpose of browsing and reading them, while plain text is sufficient for simple, Boolean or lemmatised searches. 3. Annotation and analyis The advantages of digital (also semantic) text annotation and analysis software are apparent. Such features arguably make an edition more 'scholarly', since commentary and analysis are part of the editorial work at large, but do they make it more 'critical'? 4. Witness facsimiles A quite common feature of such editions is the linking of the text to the facsimiles of witnesses: this is contributing to the success of digital philology in those sub-fields of textual editing in which information about the document itself is key – papyrology, epigraphy, codicology, editions of texts with meaningful text-image interaction such as Leonardo’s notebooks or of unique textual historical sources such as the Old Bailey or the Codex Sinaiticus. 5. 'Plural' texts Another such feature of digital scholarly editions is the possibility of recording an extensive amount of variants or parallel versions from a textual tradition, potentially much more than that which would find place in a print edition. These features, however, can not only improve the visualisation (the human reading) of additional philological data: they can also allow for further processing (computation by algorithms) of such data. Digital philology thus provides a clear added value in research fields in which textual variants or even parallel versions of a text are considered culturally significant per se – medieval textual mouvance, genetic editions and filologia d’autore of contemporary authors, New Philology. 6. Popperian falsifiability While the value of 4 is perceived only by specific areas of the Humanities and 5 does not appeal the philologists who are interested in the constitutio textus of a canonical' work, a third advantage does apply to all editions: an increased availability of philological data would greatly improve the falsifiability of the edition in a Popperian sense, thus its scholarly value. This, however, raises the issue of the sustainability of the open research data that a project makes available to the scholarly community.

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