Digits and Dactyls
By Neil Coffee - Blog de l'APA
When I was invited to participate in APA's first set of blog posts, it was suggested I might concentrate on digital classics, fitting the message to the online medium. Haud mollia iussa
!, I thought. The topic was pleasant, but the scope daunting.
Let me start by assuming you are a budding or established classicist who is not particularly invested in emerging digital methods. Why should you care? The honest answer is, not everybody needs to. There are good folks in computer science, humanities, library science, and other fields already creating digital techniques to answer research questions and better explain classical antiquity. The Orbis website
developed at Stanford can now give you a pretty good estimate of how long it took to travel by foot, cart, or ship from one point in the Roman Empire to another, and how much shipping by these modes would cost. Our Tesserae website
helps you to find intertextual parallels between Greek, Latin, or English texts. The venerable Perseus Project
continues to lay the foundation for digital textual research and develop new resources
If you find such tools useful, you might want to acquaint yourself with their methodologies so you can use them knowledgeably. After that, there;s no reason you can't just grab the results and be on your way, pausing only to consider sending an email of support to help sustain the project, and citing it in your work. You are no more required to dwell on the construction of digital tools than you are to contemplate the art of lexicography when consulting LSJ. As you go about your busy life, in all likelihood a stable set of commonly used resources will eventually emerge for you to use (provided the classics community generally invests in supporting them). By then we won't think of these resources as “digital” any more than we think of using a laptop as a digital approach to writing.
Having sufficiently undersold my subject, let me now try in good Gorgianic fashion to make the contrary case. For those with the time and inclination, there are in fact good reasons to take a greater interest in emerging digital classics methods.