Patrick Sahle, What is a Scholarly Digital Edition?

Full Abstract from https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/483 For 15 years now, the author has worked with a rather simple definition of what a "scholarly digital edition” (SDE) is. Ever since this definition has been applied in a number of theoretical (scholarly articles, books) and practical (e.g. a catalogues of SDEs, consultancy for SDEs) endeavors without encountering too many problems or contradictions. Thus, what has been a working definition in the first place seems now to be time-tested and mature for discussion within a broader context. In the attempt to give a general definition of the "scholarly edition" as the starting point for defining the new "digital scholarly edition" three aspects should be taken into account: (1.) the methodological traditions of print-culture, (2.) the broad range of scholarly disciplines creating editions, and (3.) the different textual genres and kinds of material (even non-textual) to be edited. This lead to the following very broad definition in the mother-tongue of the author: "Edition ist die erschließende Wiedergabe historischer Dokumente”. In German this definition works quite well, but unfortunately it relies on the untranslatable word and notion of "Erschließung”, which encompasses any activity that increases the amount of information concerning a specific object and thus makes it more accessible. A fair English translation might be: "A scholarly edition is the critical representation of historical documents” - taking the word "critical” as a container for all scholarly activities in editing. Deliberately, this definition contains three argument places: "critical”, "representation” and "historic document” indicating necessary conditions for scholarly editions. A scholarly "digital” edition is then defined by some further aspects, that are important for the distinction between SDEs and both digital resources that are non-SDEs and scholarly editions that are not digital: As regards the methodology SDEs are oriented towards a "digital paradigm”. That means for example a SDE (1.) cannot be given in print without a significant loss of information or functionality, (2.) that "digital” and "digitized” editions are essentially different, and (3.) that digital editions show specific aspects that cannot be found in traditional ones. Finally, some theoretical characteristics have to be discussed including concepts of open, modular and incremental editions, which asks for a demarcation from "digital libraries” or "digital archives”. This leads to the fundamental question of the "real revolution” in the transformation we are facing and that lies in - what may be called - "transmedialisation”: the shift from the edition as a media product to the edition as a modeled information resource that can be presented in media but is rather the abstract representation of knowledge.

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