Digital Humanities Working Group Meeting Tomorrow, 11/7

Details are below, and an agenda is available here:
Digital Humanities Working Group:
Locating the Real in the Virtual
7 November 2012, 12:00-1:30 pm, Pugh Hall, 210
As Walter Benjamin famously argued, mechanical reproduction deals a powerful blow to the ‘aura’ of cultural objects and texts. But, others have argued that tracing the reproductions of texts (their ‘trajectories’) makes available new perspectives on a text, its uses, communities, and meanings. Furthermore, some elements of digital reproduction actually permit closer study of archival objects (e.g., of the true colors of inks, of elements ‘erased’ or hidden behind other elements, or of the temporal unfolding of a written poem or score). Bearing in mind the constraints and affordances of digital reproduction, the online reproduction of some archival objects can enable them to be better inserted into their sociocultural context, thus contributing to their originality rather than their artificiality. In thinking more deeply about these issues, DHWG members are invited to read the publication, browse the project examples, and contemplate the questions below. All faculty and graduate students are invited to join in this discussion.
Bruno Latour & Adam Lowe. 2011. “The Migration of the Aura, or How to Explore the Original through Its Facsimiles”. In T. Bartscherer and R. Coover (eds.), Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press.
Project Examples

  • Haiti’s Declaration of Independence
    Physical copies of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence were believed to be lost, until a copy was located in the British National Archives in 2010. Many copies can now be found online, as well as many articles and commentary about it.
  • The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer
    This is covered in “The Problem of the Yellow Milkmaid” where the holding museum made the high resolution files available online in order to protect and support an accurate portrayal of the original and, in doing so, to support the original as a valid version.
  • Roman de la Rose Digital Library
    The Roman de la Rose Digital Library is a joint project of the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University and the Bibliothèque nationale de France to create an online library of all manuscripts containing the 13th-century poem Roman de la Rose. With digital surrogates of more than 130 Roman de la Rose manuscripts, and the collection continuing to grow, this project represents the creation of an online collection that does not physically exist.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the particular concerns about the relationship of the original and reproduction in your field? (e.g., in art history, some have argued that making reproductions available online could reduce travel funding opportunities.)
  2. How can elements of digital reproduction contribute to understanding the ‘originality’ of texts or artefacts in your field? Can possibilities for digital reproduction open new research questions for you?