8/11/2015 “Quid ergo Silicon Valley et Hierosolymis? Potential and Perils of the Digital Humanities for Patristic Studies” #oxpats15 @Oxford University

Posted by on Friday, August 7, 2015 in Uncategorized.

Syriaca.org general editor David A. Michelson will present a paper “Quid ergo Silicon Valley et Hierosolymis? Potential and Perils of the Digital Humanities for Patristic Studies” as part of the  XVII. International Conference on Patristic Studies at Oxford University on 8/11/2015. This is part of a two panel session on Digital Humanities and the Study of Patristics.

A pdf of the handout is here.

The abstract of the paper is as follows:

Over the last half century, scholars studying the history of Christianity have enjoyed an ever-increasing number of electronic research tools, such as text corpora and manuscript catalogues (e.g. Thesaurus Lingua Graeca, Cetedoc, OLIVER). Many of these resources now serve an essential role for research on Christianity in late antiquity. In contrast to this proliferation of databases, there has been surprisingly less methodological reflection among scholars of late antiquity about how digital research has both opened new possibilities and created new blind spots. Fortunately, these are questions of wide academic interest now being addressed beyond Patristic studies by a number of disciplines under the rubric of the “digital humanities”.  This paper brings Patristic studies into this emerging conversation by surveying the current state of digital work in Patristic studies and offering theoretical proposals for its future direction. This paper first surveys existing theoretical work in the digital humanities. Next, this paper brings these debates into conversation with Patristic studies and related disciplines. The paper then concludes a discussion of how new digital projects on Christianity in Late Antiquity could benefit from the methodological reflection occurring in other fields active in digital humanities. Because digital humanities and Patristic studies are both interdisciplinary umbrellas where scholars from multiple fields collaborate there are many fruitful prospects for overlap between the two fields.

The text of the handout is here:

Global Information Capacity 1986 2007
Digital Communication 99% Analogue (34% Print) 51% Digital (13% Print)
Digital Storage (+10,000%) 99% Analogue (.33% Paper) 94% Digital (.007% Paper)
Digital Text N/A 20% Digital Text
Computing Power Increase of 58% per year

Source: Hilbert & López, Science, 2011


Recent Theoretical Reflections on the Nature of Digital Scholarship

  1. Theorizing in response to the ubiquity of digital scholarship (M. Terras)
  2. Valuing the organization of knowledge as interpretive work (T. Scheinfeldt)
  3. Re-considering the role of “data” in the humanities (M. Posner)
  4. Promoting public, collaborative, and democrativ humanities scholarship (L. Spiro, A. Koh)
  5. Disrupting knowledge systems (M. Posner, J. Drucker)
  6. Doubting digital salvation (J. Drucker, A. Koh)


On Cassiodorus as a Model for DH

“He did not despise the new; he used it wholeheartedly. He did not reject old social institutions, but rather found new ways to adapt them. He did not tarry to prophesy a new age of learning and wisdom. Most of all, he did things. The larger scheme within which he did them was not widely imitated, nor was it imitable…. In Cassiodorus, I find not a patron saint, but a colleague, a practitioner who innovated, failed, and innovated again. He did so on a scale and with a modesty of purpose that guaranteed he would eventually suffer the indignity of a debunking at the hands of a young whippersnapper; but an older practitioner of the new would at last recognize him as a colleague. Cassiodorus solved nothing: that is his virtue. I mean by this construction no disrespect for theory, but perhaps a repositioning.”

Source: O’Donnell, Avatars of the Word, 1998



Busa, Roberto. “Foreword: Perspectives on the Digital Humanities.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, John Unsworth, and Ray Siemens, xvi – xxi. 2004.

Clivaz, Claire. “Common Era 2.0: Reading Digital Culture from Antiquity to Modernity.” In Lire Demain. Des Manuscrits Antiques à L’ère Digitale., edited by Claire Clivaz, Jérôme Meizoz, François Vallotton, and Joseph Verheyden, 23–60. 2012.

Gold, Matthew K. “Facts, Patterns, Methods, Meaning: Public Knowledge Building in the Digital Humanities.” Lecture given at Digital Humanities Plus Art: Going Public, University of Wisconsin – Madison, April 17, 2015. Text published online at http://blog.mkgold.net/2015/04/20/facts-patterns-methods-meaning-public-knowledge-building-in-the-digital-humanities/.

_____, ed. Debates in the Digital Humanities. 2012. (Several essays in this work were consulted).

Hilbert, Martin, and Priscila López. “The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information.” Science 332, no. 6025 (April, 2011): 60–65.

Koh, Adeline. “A Letter to the Humanities: DH Will Not Save You.” Hybrid Pedagogy, April 19, 2015. http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/journal/a-letter-to-the-humanities-dh-will-not-save-you/.

O’Donnell, James Joseph. Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace. 1998.

Orlandi, Tito. “Modeling the Coptic Literature. The ‘Corpus Dei Manoscritti Copti Letterari.’” In I&E 2002: Proceedings of the XIV Teble Ronde Informatique et Égyptologie. 2002.

Posner, Miriam. “Humanities Data: A Necessary Contradiction.” Lecture presented at the Harvard Purdue Data Management Symposium, Harvard University, June 17, 2015. Text published online at http://miriamposner.com/blog/humanities-data-a-necessary-contradiction/.

_____. “The Radical, Unrealized Potential of Digital Humanities.” Lecture presented at the Keystone Digital Humanities Conference, University of Pennsylvania, July 22, 2015. Text published online at http://miriamposner.com/blog/whats-next-the-radical-unrealized-potential-of-digital-humanities/.

Roueché, Charlotte. “Why Do We Mark Up Texts?” In Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities, edited by Willard McCarty and Marilyn Deegan. 2011.

Terras, Melissa. “A Decade in Digital Humanities.” Inaugural Lecture, University College London, May 27, 2014. http://melissaterras.blogspot.com/2014/05/inaugural-lecture-decade-in-digital.html.


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