Current Epigraphy
ISSN: 1754-0909

12 January, 2011

Review of Feraudi, Latin on Stone

Filed under: publications,review — Gabriel Bodard @ 15:33

In this week’s Bryn Mawr Classical Review there is a thoughtful review by Caillan Davenport of Francisca Feraudi-Gruénais (ed.), Latin on Stone: Epigraphic Research and Electronic Archives. Roman Studies. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010. (Announced here a few months ago.)

(Full disclosure: I have a chapter in this book, about which Davenport writes fairly positively.)

This is a mixed review, with some criticism of individual chapters and some perhaps unnecessarily sniffy comments about publishing work on a digital topic in a printed book, but otherwise constructive commentary on the subject matter and some useful discussion of epigraphic research from a Digital Humanities perspective.

3 Comments »

  1. I think that the comments of Davenport about publishing work on a digital topic in a printed book are substantially correct. We’re talking about a collection of papers that should be, and I hope that it is, a supplement to the information provided in a more concise and simplified form on the websites of the electronic databases (unfortunately I have not yet seen the book) or an extensive exemplification of an ongoing project. The access to such information should be easy and quick. Concerning the database websites, publications such as Latin on Stone … are very useful just because they fill a gap of transparency and clarity.

    It is obvious that one can wait for the book to arrive in his library to read the chapter Epigraphic Documents in XML for Publication and Interchange. This is because it is sufficient to entry Inscriptions of Aphrodisias 2007 (e. g.) and download an XML file to realize how it’s done a file EpiDoc XML. Almost everything about EpiDoc is accessible and transparent. There is an Epidoc site, one, two or three Epidoc workshops a year, all the training aid is accessible. On the contrary, papers as EDR, History, Purpose, and Structure (just to quote one among the others) are much more useful online. I hope that this paper is something more than the information provided on the website (I repeat, I have not yet read the book). Otherwise, what Davenport wrote on his review it’s a gospel truth. Why produce unnecessary paper? Trees are precious!

    The numbers are very significant: there are no hundreds of recent publications sbout DH in hard-copy book and the cost of which exceeds 40 €! This means that there is a current that goes in a certain direction and it would be important to provide readers with the reasons that compelled to go against the tide. Sometimes the editors are grudgingly forced to keep certain decisions. I would add that even the authors who have contributed to these print publications often don’t agree with the decision to publish in this way. Many of them, in fact, kindly provide a .pdf copy of their contribution on their blog or elsewhere.

    Comment by Eleonora Santin — 17 January, 2011 @ 08:36

  2. I think there may be two issues in conflict here.

    As a general observation, digital publication has many advantages over print publication (also some drawbacks) as I have discussed in detail elsewhere, so I have no argument with the statement that much of this material would have been (even) more useful if it were open access, free, widely references, and digitally actionable as hypertext etc. This is true of all academic publication, I would contend.

    There seems to be a misconception, however, that this book represents some kind of reference documentation for the projects and resources under discussion, something that belongs “on a website” rather than in a serious publication. This strikes me as a mildly pejorative assumption (and so, yes, “sniffy”). It is my understanding that this book represents an attempt to discuss in a scholarly context some of the issues surrounding the digital publication and study of inscriptions, which is a different exercise from providing reference documentation, and directed at a different audience (one who might be more comfortable reading a print book–however expensive–in their library that perusing the technical language in the “help” or “about” section of a website”).

    It would be fair to critique (as the reviewer does) whether or not individual chapters have succeeded in this agenda. But to complain that discussion of digital humanities or digital research should not be published in print risks to encourage further ghettoization of the discipline from traditional humanities scholarship, which I think would be a shame.

    But perhaps I misunderstand your complaint?

    Comment by Gabriel Bodard — 18 January, 2011 @ 11:24

  3. Sono felice del fatto che tu stesso abbia provveduto a fornire un link al tuo articolo del marzo 2008 perché se non lo avessi fatto tu l’avrei fatto io. Il messaggio è così ben formulato, e per questo citato ovunque, che la questione generale sui vantaggi (e gli eventuali, pochi svantaggi) della pubblicazione digitale è al momento del tutto risolta.
    Il commento di Davenport non è sprezzante, ma coraggioso. Non potrei dire se condivisibile nelle sue diverse e specifiche parti, perché attendo di vedere il libro che ho immediatamente chiesto di acquistare alla mia biblioteca. Non ho scelta. Come utente assidua delle banche dati epigrafiche mi piacerebbe leggere al più presto i contributi presenti nella pubblicazione, ma dovrò attendere come tutti. Ciò che mi sembra convincente, anche senza aver visto il libro, è che Davenport faccia una distinzione tra articoli che hanno un loro senso in una pubblicazione scientifica, sia essa in formato cartaceo o elettronico, e articoli che in questo contesto sono meno utili.
    Un articolo di qualsiasi livello, in stretta connessione con uno strumento di ricerca con un ampio bacino d’utenza come una banca dati già esistente, in una pubblicazione cartacea perde gran parte della sua ragion d’essere. In questo caso il lettore è anche utente ed è nell’interesse degli utenti che questi scritti devono essere redatti.
    Non ho affermato che la discussione scientifica sulle DH dovrebbe essere bandita dalle pubblicazioni a stampa, bollata con un marchio infamante e confinata unicamente sul web. La natura degli argomenti trattati fa sì che naturalmente, senza forzature, questa discussione si sposti in rete, perché è una discussione altamente dinamica, ovvero soggetta a rapidi cambiamenti, perché è una discussione che è molto più comodo avere in rete per una lunga serie di motivi. La pubblicazione on line non può e non deve più essere considerata una pubblicazione di serie B, quindi non vedo nessun incoraggiamento alla ghettizzazione nell’auspicare che tutto possa essere presto consultabile in rete. Nessuno impedisce all’umanista digitale di scolpire il suo articolo su una bella stele di marmo bianco, solo che quando avrà finito probabilmente quello che avrà da dire sarà già preistoria.

    Comment by Eleonora Santin — 18 January, 2011 @ 13:12

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