In Susan Schreibman’s Digital Scholarly Editing, she states that ‘Digital scholarly editors are no longer bound by the constraints of the codex and the economics of print publication.’
Schreibman is suggesting that when a text is transcribed from a codex to a digital edition, or is simply born a digital edition to begin with, it is freed from the restrictions it suffers as a physical edition. My own previous study into physical and digital editions of the same text, particularly with Reynard the Fox, concurs with the idea that digital editions are liberated from these restrictions. Digital editions are cheaper, perhaps even free, to make, thus freeing them from the financial restrictions of print publication. They are also easier to navigate, search, and access, due to the use of hyperlinks, encoding and the immense audience of the internet. The digital text is liberated from the spatial restrictions enforced upon a codex, in that it takes up no physical space at all, and any errors that are made in a digital edition can be easily rectified, something which I have already experienced, through study of Reynard the Fox, is not the case with a codex.
My essay will be arguing that, despite there being minor restrictions present in digital editions of texts which are not problematic in the physical, the majority of the constraints of the codex, as well as the problems with the economics of print publication, are abolished when a text is created digitally. Through the use of type, print, accessibility and navigation problems found in bound versions of Reynard the Fox, I will be considering whether these same problems are still present in the digital version, thus striving to confirm Schreibman’s assertion.
Peter Shillingsburg states that ‘Editorial goals … are different from archival ones’ in Literary Documents, Texts, and Works Represented Digitally.
I intend to explore the truth of this statement through the Early Novels Database which archives ‘super-rich metadata about fiction in English in order to help researchers imagine new histories for the novel. By uniting twenty-first-century database and search technologies with the sensibility of eighteenth-century indexing practices, END creates several innovative access points to our collection of controlled-term and descriptive metadata about novels published between 1660-1830.' The END will be compared to a project we executed in class where we digitised sections of the Nehemiah Grew text. The processes we undertook and the editorial decisions that we were faced with when remediating this text, were very influential to how it appeared in digital form.
Editorial goals, therefore seem to require decisions which allow the editor to choose which parts of the text are most appropriate, and whether things such as writing in the margins of the book should be translated into the digital form. Archival goals are more of an accurate representation of a text, or in the case of the END the metadata of the text. The END offers a more interactive experience, whereas our digitising of the Grew text served to translate a very old book into a digital format. Although both serve to make texts digital, editorial goals rely more upon giving old texts new life in a digital form, whereas archives provide accurate representations for a researcher to explore. In the light of these suggestions my essay will take the stance of agreeing with Peter Shillingsburg’s statement.
 The Early Novels Database About Page. [Online] Available from: http://earlynovels.org/?page_id=7 [Accessed 20/01/16].
In the book Defining Digital Humanities: A Reader, Mark Sample states in reference to the promise of the digital, ‘Its not about building, it’s about sharing.’ (p.255)
The viewpoint on the influence of the digital industry seems to be centered on three focal disputes. One side seems to favour more traditional, possibly archaic values, opposing to fully accept its ever-growing nature. On the other hand, the second side is very encouraging of the rise and usefulness of the digital industry and its ability to aid and enhance pre-existing standards and research. The third side attempts to create a symbiosis of both in order to create a happy medium. This is the side that Sample, as well as myself is seemingly on.
This essay will formulate the argument that Sample’s statement is true to its fullest extent, highlighting the importance of sharing knowledge over mass- construction of digital systems. Sample’s emphasis of the significance of sharing, complies with my own research into crowdsourcing/community sourcing tools and databases/projects that I have studied in class. Sample also states ‘The heart of the digital humanities is not in the production of knowledge; it’s the reproduction of knowledge.’ (p.256) This not only affects the theoretical approach to the question at hand but also opens up the exploration of databases such as Wikipedia and the Early Novels Database (END). These are two resources that will help evidence the argument that sharing knowledge is more important than building knowledge. This battle between the correct applications of digital knowledge is important due to the volatile nature of the industry, and the quality of potential excellence that the digital world has due to its ability to reshape the representation, sharing, and discussion of knowledge.
Having read various Chinese novels that had been translated into English, it was clear some translations were better than others in regards to the type of translation. It poses various concerns including subjective interpretation, in which the original story is unable to be reproduced in another language effectively. Some translators care for the content and form of the text to be the importance of the text, whereas others focused on the message it portrays, or the syntax, punctuation and rhythm, but the biggest problem of all was that some meanings and words cannot be translated altogether. The Chinese language considers the English to be a simple language, and as a result, there just aren’t the words to describe effectively many situations. Similar issues, as Katherine Hayles points out, are placed on the digitising of texts.
The biggest problem to many in media translation is the loss of meaning. Meaning for me is not just the words on the page, and the story it creates, but also the meaning that comes with the physicality of the book. The physical object and material of the book itself is in some cases the only reason a book has any meaning.
But not just looking at the physical book itself, there is a sense of originality and authenticity that would be lost in translating a document into electronic text. The significance a book possesses could lie in the font it is written in, or the illustrations or diagrams. In the Nehemiah Grew, the text we digitised in our lesson had all of these factors, as well as the editor’s corrections, and this is what made the book so captivating and interesting. Therefore, my essay will focus more on these issues of translation, and whether or not we can overcome them.
In her book My Mother was a Computer: Digital Subject and Literary Texts N. Katherine Hayles writes the following: ‘I use the term “media translation” to suggest that recreating a text in another medium is so significant a change that it is analogous to translating from one language to another’ (p.109).
Hayles is suggesting that the act of translating texts from one language to another is synonymous with the act of remediating a text from the physical codex into a digital one, in other words, by creating a digital edition of a physical text. The heart of my essay responds to this claim by exploring the challenges faced by a digital scholarly editor when remediating a text to see if they run parallel to challenges faced by the translator of languages.
The theoretical discussion around the challenge of a translator being dependent on its target (if the aim is to replicate the text as closely as possible or reimagine it for an intended audience) supports Hayles’ claim, but discussing this theoretically only would be limiting as the remediation of texts and translating languages is practical, too. My essay applies these challenges to my first-hand experience of the digital remediation process of Reynard the Fox.
As a result of this, the decisions I had to make for my own translation of text are not dissimilar to those faced by translators of language, and so the theoretical arguments and the practical process behind digital remediation construct an argument in support of Hayles’ claim in my essay.