Digitization & representation

This week’s question concerning representation brought to mind The Selected Poems of E.J. Pratt: A Hypertext Edition, edited by Sandra Djwa, W.J. Keith, and Zailig Pollock. This text also ties in with Monday’s class discussion on popular perceptions of the Digital Humanities.

To explore this project for yourself, follow this link: http://www.trentu.ca/faculty/pratt/selected/

While I find the design of this project unappealing, including the small window for text and the font choice of Courier New, I appreciate the way the text makes editorial choices visible.

The use of hyperlinks highlights particular sections of the poem. Words and lines associated with a link are highlighted in blue and underlined. This emphasizes the words in ways in which a footnote citation does not. Footnotes, while by no means invisible to the reader, are less obtrusive. In the print version of the text, the font is also all one colour (black). As a result, the editors direct readers’ attention quite obtrusively to specific parts of the poem. This asserts an editorial presence.

Is all of this necessary, though? The intended reader for this text is a scholar. I draw this conclusion because one can only find this text on the Trent website if they already know of its existence, either through searching the site or following a series of hypertext links through the rabbit hole which is the university’s website. When reading Pratt’s “The Titanic,” does a scholar really need to click on a link which brings them to a grainy picture of the vessel’s deck? A Google image search would provide the same result, and more.

I am curious to hear what my Future of the Book colleagues think about a digitization project such as this one.

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