Meeting with prof. Orlandi on Viré’s book

March 27, 2012 in Communication, Meeting, Morning, Office, Reading, Reflecting, Research

Accademia dei Lincei

Main entrance of the Accademia dei Lincei, Rome

At about Noon I had a brief meeting with prof. Tito Orlandi, the supervisor of my post-PhD bourse here at the Centro Linceo Interdisciplinare “B. Segre” of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome.

I showed him the Quantifying Digital Humanities poster that the secretary of the Accademia just delivered to me (hurray! Thank you, Melissa Terras). Countries outside the anglo-saxon area are only really present in the first figure (“Physical centres in Digital Humanities across the globe”), but do not show up when funding is taken into account. Maybe because the quantity of funding to DH institutions outside UK and USA is not comparable to that of those nations?

DH infographic

DH poster by Melissa Terras, now hanging at the wall of the Centro Linceo Interdisciplinare

Our short meeting today was mostly a discussion on a book that I am reading:  Viré, Ghislaine (1986), Informatique et classement des Manuscrits. Essai méthodologique sur le de astronomia d’Hygin, Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, Bruxelles (I am making my reading notes on the book, in English, available online).

I am currently studying the methods underdying digital scholarly editions. Viré’s book, although old, has an interesting reflection on what a “variant” is and how it should be modelled (Viré 1986, 27-41). What I and prof. Orlandi discussed is that Viré’s task was to feed the computer with a number of variants to let it build a scheme of the relationships between manuscripts (an automatic recensio codicum), so the human philologist can continue the work from there. For Viré, collatio, emendatio and constitutio textus should not be automatised. All that the computer should take care of is recensio: it is required to build semi-automatically a scheme of kinship between manuscript.

Centro Linceo Interdisciplinare

The hall of the Centro Linceo Interdisciplinare, where I normally work (see brown bagpack and white netbook)

I argued that this primary task affects dramatically Viré’s modelling of textual variance, which results oversimplified (by means of a complete orthographic “normalisation”). However, as Orlandi rightly replied, her thoughtful discussion on textual variance modelling is of extreme interest, and much ahead of the oversimplified text modelling at the basis of some literary digital editions today.

One of my goals is to propose a reflection on possible models on how to model textual variance in our digital scholarly editions and our textual archives, so I will take the interesting point of Viré and take the reflection further from there.

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