3 types of publication that classical studies needs

Glancing over the latest issue of a certain classics journal that came to my door, and seeing nothing terribly interesting or new, I got to thinking . . . The web has made it possible to publish scholarly work in new ways, and that’s certainly what DCC is trying to do. Classical commentary is one of the oldest genres out there. What are some other types of scholarship that classicists could usefully embrace in the digital realm? How can we leverage digital media to make progress? Herewith, three suggestions. I’d love to hear more!

1. Critical reflections on pedagogy and descriptions of innovative teaching technique using digital tools. Pedagogy discussions in our field happen predominantly in informal venues like listservs and at conferences. The online journal Teaching Classical Languages  http://tcl.camws.org/) is a leader in making these important and interesting discussions more widely available and subjecting them to some peer review. What if we could do that┬ánot just with a traditional article, but with video, audio, and ancillary materials provided?

2. Distant Reading, a la Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees. (“argues heretically that literature scholars should stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead.”) What can statistical analysis of classical texts, and the graphical display of that data, show us that is new and interesting?┬áThere is not much of this yet in classics as far as I know, but digital tools are making it more possible. Publishing it in digital form would allow for full publication of data and many more illustrations/vizualizations than in traditional print media. Related to this but more broad is . . .

3. Visualization projects (infographics etc.) made by scholars and conveying scholarly perspectives on the ancient world. These could be literary, or come from archaeologists and historians. Here again, as far as I am aware there is not much happening at the moment (but I’m not an archaeologist). Ramsay MacMullen did some fascinating work along these lines with inscriptional evidence. What can be done with coin hordes, word counts, anything countable that relates to the ancient world?

–Chris Francese

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8 thoughts on “3 types of publication that classical studies needs

  1. Chris,

    I think all of these ideas are fantastic and very much needed in the field. #2 catches my interest the most, since I think computers now provide us with opportunities for wide-scale data analysis of classical texts previously unimagined. The right program and analysis could give us significantly more insight into things like word/construction frequency and use, word order, etc. which would reinforce #1 in terms of more refined and advanced pedagogical techniques, perhaps utilizing #3 to convey the information in question. Thanks for sharing the thoughts.

    Cheers,

    Alan

  2. These are all great suggestions. Classical archaeology continues to make great strides in Visualization, utilizing terrestrial laser scanner, 3-D modeling, LiDAR technologies, among others, to model ancient architecture and material culture, presenting final products that can often be interacted. In the case of fieldwork, the integration of visualization strategies within a site-wide GIS (Geographic Information Systems) offers virtually untold potential. In geography, entities like the Ancient World Mapping Center (http://awmc.unc.edu) is working to move beyond the constraints of paper cartography and offer users and scholars alike manipulable maps via the Antiquity a la Carte 2.0 application and the AWMC API for ancient world geography. Similarly, projects like Pleiades and Pelagios are using stable identifiers to link cognate data that exists online through the virtual geographic matrix. All of these strategies are exciting and have the potential to reshape – if not redefine – both classical studies and classical archaeology. It is high time for greater and wider disciplinary awareness of these strategies and their transformative potential.

    • DCC is planning comprehensive integration of our geographical data with Pleiades via Pelagios. But I think there’s a distinction to be made between mapping per se and the kind of philological data vizualization I have in mind. The Republic of Letters is a site that integrates mapping and text in interesting ways. And Neatline (http://neatline.org/) is a new tool that will be very interesting to apply as well. Since I’m basically a text guy, I would love to see the kind of visual sophistication that is normal in archaeology be put to good use in philological contexts as well. I think more classicists should be reading books like Tufte’s Visualizing Information.

      • Neatline seems made for Nepos! I’m imagining an exhibit that could accompany the entire life, plotting his movement from Carthage to Spain to and around Italy to Carthage and then the East, as well as exhibits for individual battles and campaigns. SO superior to a series of static maps or a dynamic, but linear and non-interactive, video.

        I’d be loath to “stop reading books”, but I do love a good info graphic, and I’ve found Tufte’s sparklines useful for describing metrical patterns. Hopefully we are reaching a critical mass where visualization will move from “gimmicky” to “permissible”, if not “essential”–I’m still (pleasantly) surprised when I find a sophisticated argument in an Classics paper supported by an elegant chart.

        • I agree Neatline is ideal for Nepos! Let’s do it! I’m not familiar with sparklines. Love to see what you have done with metrics in this regard.

          I am thinking what the field needs is a monetary prize for the top three classical infographics of the year.

          • Great. I’m going to start working with the digital humanists here at Haverford on this. Hopefully, we can hit the summer at a gallop.

            A prize is a capital idea. I wonder if it is worth approaching the APA committee on outreach or the editor at Amphora? (unless you have a wealthy and eccentric billionaire in your back pocket).

            Are you planning to be in Seattle? If so, maybe we could grab a coffee (or something stouter!)

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