Tech Revolutions and Medivalists in DH

Laura from History and Classics at Queen’s will be joining the conversation!

I’d love to hear from other disciplines in the humanities about how technology (and its speed of change) is affecting their work or studies. I would love to hear how other students/scholars/teachers working in other areas of the humanities are dealing with the rapid change of our ability to access and communicate information. As a medievalist, this has particular relevance as my discipline has jumped feet first into the world of digital humanities during the past few years, a trend not all scholars think is beneficial. I would like to discuss how technology is changing our ability to access “established” scholarly information (articles, journals, texts). Particularly in medieval studies, the “digitization” of manuscripts has been a much discussed topic in recent years. This may be a boon in terms of widening the availability of fragile and often unavailable texts; however, the downsides of these projects have only started to emerge (damage to the manuscript, cost to the library, etc.) Additionally, many projects in medieval history have attempted to capitalize on the burgeoning field of the digital humanities in an attempt to make medieval history “relevant”. I’d like to weigh the success of these numerous projects and how they have either aided or perhaps even restricted our ability to analyze primary and secondary sources.

I am a postdoctoral researcher at Queen’s, jointly appointed within the history and classics department. My research looks at the adoption and adaptation of written language from late antiquity to the Carolingian period (5th-9th centuries). In particular, I examine changes to the “technology of the written word” during this period, looking at the advent of the book (“codex”), changes and advances in handwriting, and widening literacy among medieval populations. The technological revolution that characterizes this period in medieval history mirrors our society’s current state of change with regard to the advent of the e-reader or IPad, drastically altering how we exist as a literate society.

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