Monday, March 9, 2009

Classics and Cyberinfrastructure

The winter issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly focuses on how digital technologies are transforming classical studies. The conclusion synthesizes a number of the themes raised in this collection of essays and describes the Scaife Digital Library, a distributed collection and method for aggregating content (cf. paragraph 101).Some excerpts:

The center of gravity for intellectual life in every developed or developing society is now digital and humanity has already begun to arrange an infrastructure around that new center (27).

Twenty-first century collections become libraries only insofar as they fulfill the need to provide access over time and across space. Long term preservation and global access are foundational challenges for our new information infrastructure (81).

In the past decade, the academic library system has quietly shifted again. The print libraries of the 19th and 20th century have, in effect, become the archives of the 21st century, as publication and discourse in the most heavily supported disciplines have shifted entirely to a digital medium (84).

We can create now collections that are larger than any Ptolemy or Cleopatra could have imagined for their Alexandria. We have ever more sophisticated services that can analyze and combine these collections in new ways and even to generate the stuff of new knowledge. And the material systems on which these services are based simply did not exist half a century ago and cost 100,000 times less now than they did a quarter century ago. And if the essays published here have focused upon what we can learn from our textual record, these collections capture sound, images, and data that human hands alone can never transcribe. Indeed, the writing on inscriptions, papyri, and manuscripts now appear as images, open for humans to read and machines to analyze, ready to reveal long forgotten aspects of the living world that produced them (125).