Artefacts and errors: Acknowledging issues of representation in the digital imaging of ancient texts

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    Abstract

    It is assumed, in palaeography, papyrology and epigraphy, that a certain amount of uncertainty is inherent in the reading of damaged and abraded texts. Yet we have not really grappled with the fact that, nowadays, as many scholars tend to deal with digital images of texts, rather than handling the texts themselves, the procedures for creating digital images of texts can insert further uncertainty into the representation of the text created. Technical distortions can lead to the unintentional introduction of "artefacts" into images, which can have an effect on the resulting representation. If we cannot trust our digital surrogates of texts, can we trust the readings from them? How do scholars acknowledge the quality of digitised images of texts? Furthermore, this leads us to the type of discussions of representation that have been present in Classical texts since Plato: digitisation can be considered as an alternative form of representation, bringing to the modern debate of the use of digital technology in Classics the familiar theories of mimesis (imitation) and ekphrasis: the conversion of visual evidence into explicit descriptions of that information, stored in computer files in distinct linguistic terms, with all the difficulties of conversion understood in the ekphratic process. The community has not yet considered what becoming dependent on digital texts means for the field, both in practical and theoretical terms. Issues of quality, copying, representation, and substance should be part of our dialogue when we consult digital surrogates of documentary material, yet we are just constructing understandings of what it means to rely on virtual representations of artefacts. It is necessary to relate to our understandings of uncertainty in palaeography and epigraphy to our understanding of the mechanics of visualization employed by digital imaging techniques, if we are to fully understand the impact that these will have
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationKodikologie und Paläographie im digitalen Zeitalter 2/ Codicology and Palaeography in the Digital Age 2
    EditorsF. Fischer, C. Fritze, G. Vogeler
    PublisherBooks on Demand
    Pages43-61
    ISBN (Print)9783842350328
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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