Teaching and Publication of Classics in the Internet Age

Convenor: Simon Mahony

This panel brings together scholars with an interest in using digital approaches and technologies to address issues in teaching, publication and the dissemination of Classical texts and materials. They each explore different ways in which new technologies and the opportunities offered by the Internet and the Web encourage new ways of thinking about traditional research as well as addressing new issues that the use of these technologies themselves raise. The Web 2.0 and social media facilitates the possibilities of new relationships between user and content, viewer and object, reader and text. How does this affect the way we work and the way we relate to the objects of our study? What can it mean for an edition to be fully digital and really critical? In what way is the traditional sense of how culture is transmitted and understood changed when it is transmitted digitally and more broadly by means of the Web? How might the users of an image collection be able to shape and enrich it to better suit their needs? Can the framework of the sophisticated Roman literary world be used to model a support network for acknowledgement, dissemination and support of text in the digital age?

Paper 1: A Digital Edition of Athenaeus: Defining a Rationale

Aurélien Berra (Paris-Ouest)

While claims of revolution are often the staple of the media, the scholars who study and influence the shape of digital things to come now often see our period as an incunabular stage. This reference to the beginnings of print obviously has a special resonance in the field of text editing. It evokes the spirit of Renaissance classical scholarship, an age of explorations which first dealt with what still is the dominant format of the text and set the ground for current philological practices. Digital experiments on Greek and Latin corpora started decades ago; they became more radical with the advent of the Web. As scholars, libraries and publishing houses are groping towards new models and work-flows, it is indeed a common statement that the deeply codified process of preparing a critical edition has to be adapted and in many respects reinvented. The purpose of this paper is to discuss some crucial issues of this renewed process and its potential consequences in terms of method, updatability, collaboration, transparency and accessibility: what can it mean for an edition to be fully digital and really critical? This reflection stems from a survey of existing projects and the preparation of a digital edition of Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists.

A digital approach is especially rewarding given the size of this composite text, since it facilitates its handling and enables quantitative and automatic analyses. It is also promising for the evaluation of the manuscript tradition of the text, which is complicated by the existence of a Byzantine epitome. Embeddedness and intertextuality are extremely relevant in a digital context: speeches, narrations, quotations and paraphrases are studied in a new light. The paper will explore initial choices and explain how a digital edition of Athenaeus can contribute to transform the uses of textual scholarship. Central concerns are the evolution of the critical apparatus, the applicability of the Text Encoding Initiative models, the linking of resources and the problems of dual and open source publication.

Paper 2: Reception reconsidered: communicating material culture in the Internet age

Stuart Dunn (King’s College London)

The concept of reception is critical in the study of ancient Greek and Roman art and material culture. When such material culture is placed on display, each generation brings its own views, prejudices and values to it, which correspondingly influences how it is interpreted and understood. Museums, of course, have historically played a key role in the transmission of Greco-Roman antiquity to wider audiences, amongst the most famous examples being the free display of the Parthenon Sculptures by the British Museum since 1817 with the aim of, according to the Earl of Elgin, ‘improve the arts of Great Britain’. However, despite widespread use of the Internet, including Web 2.0 social media and so-called ‘virtual museums’, there have been relatively few attempts to connect these long established means of understanding reception in the traditional sense with how culture might be understood to have been transmitted digitally. It has been alluded to in passing – for example James Cuno, in his 2009 study, Who Owns Antiquity briefly discusses it as a means of disseminating culture more broadly and thus undermining the need for ‘protectionist’ cultural protection laws, but such passing references (usually, as in this case, ancillary means of supporting other arguments) merely highlight that a updating of the concept of ‘reception’ for the Internet age is needed. This paper will seek to provide a theoretical basis for such a discussion.  It will be argued in particular that recent studies of the application of social simulation (Agent-based modelling) methods to historical situations are proving very promising for such a process updating, and a brief demonstration of how ABM might be applied will be attempted in relation to data recently gathered as part of the Motion in Place Platform  project, on the Imperial Roman occupation in southern Britain.

Paper 3: Digitizing and Enriching a Teaching Image Collection for Classics

Simon Mahony (UCL)

Classics teaching is heavily dependant on the examination of artefacts and images have an important pedagogical impact. Departments have large slide collections as the traditional medium to illustrate lectures, make comparisons, and provide examples for students. With the phasing out of 35mm slides and related projection equipment, King’s College London set up a pilot project to create a digital image collection to support teaching and research using slides from the Classics department. The static format of Content Management Systems only allowed limited viewing and download of content which considerably reduced its uptake. New Web 2.0 technologies enable a far more interactive model and foster a collaborative community of users. This research examines how the user community itself can move from being passive consumers to become a valuable resource - particularly in the area of the correction and enrichment of the accompanying metadata. The true value of an online image collection is in the data that accompanies each image; this is what makes a collection searchable allowing users to locate and use the images they require. Image collections need detailed, reliable and consistent descriptions of their contents and provenance. One of the problems is that the term 'metadata' is understood in different ways by different sections of the academic community.  A solution to this is to allow the user community itself to enrich the data that accompanies the images. This is a possibility afforded by using the image hosting website, Flickr. The existing two models used are The Commons, a project in partnership with The Library of Congress and the Ancient World Image Bank at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (NYU). This research is also informed by the OxCLIC image management project at Oxford and their experiences of setting up an Open Source image repository.

Paper 4:

Authorship Acknowledgement in Ovid and Martial, or How to Rethink Copyright in the Digital Age

Paolo Monella (Palermo)

For centuries, through the Modern and Contemporary Ages, writers have been gaining support through copyright, that is through tight control over the reproduction of the text's physical support. In the Digital Age, such control becomes less and less feasible. This encourages us to reshape the connection between authorship and material support.

A contribution to the debate on this issue may come from an analysis of the framework established, long before the Gutenberg Age, in the sophisticated literary world of the Roman Empire. Ovid's exile poems and Martial's Epigrams offer an extraordinary insight into the relations between literary production, textual diffusion, patronage and the author's material support in their age. In both cases such relations are exposed and discussed because they are endangered: Ovid's prestige is undercut by banishment; Martial's authorship by plagiarism. The banished Ovid evokes his ties with the emperor, his influential friends and patrons, and the wider Roman audience, in the hope that this may help him to regain his political and social status. Martial struggles to make a living and possibly a career through the books market and public declamations.

The model that they shed light on is based on authorship acknowledgment, literary prestige gained through wide textual circulation, exploitation of public performances, aristocratic and imperial patronage. This model is particularly interesting in view of the possible digital scenarios where authorship is acknowledged, while dissemination of the textual resource is fostered. Examples include the many forms of on line texts publication (spanning from large news portals to thematic web sites and blogs), as well as Open Access diffusion of scholarly research.