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The Uncanny Valley and the Ghost in the Machine: a discussion of analogies for thinking about digitized medieval manuscripts

Digital Humanities Seminar
Co-Sponsored with the Hall Center for the Humanities

Monday, September 17, 2018
3:00pm - 4:30pm
Hall Center for the Humanities

The Uncanny Valley and the Ghost in the Machine: a discussion of analogies for thinking about digitized medieval manuscripts
Dot Porter, Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, Kislak Center for Special Collections, University of Pennsylvania

As the digitization of manuscripts becomes more and more widespread, and as we develop new methods for digitizing manuscripts in compelling ways and making use of these digital objects, we as a scholarly community have had to come up with various methods for communicating about these objects. We use relatively straightforward terms, such as surrogate, facsimile, and avatar, as well as more complex analogies. In the last chapter of 2008’s Printing the Middle Ages, “Coda; The Ghost in the Machine; Digital Avatars of Medieval Manuscripts,” Sian Echard talks of “the ominous implications of the phrase ‘the ghost in the machine’” in the consideration of modern reception, particularly digital reception, of medieval manuscripts. Beginning with the concept of mind-body dualism, described as “the ghost in the machine” by 20th century philosopher Gilbert Ryle, my talk will consider the appropriation of a variety of terms and analogies from philosophy, literature, and popular culture, and how we might use them to help us think about digitized medieval manuscripts and their uses.

Bio: As Curator of Digital Research Services in the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, Dot Porter participates in a wide-ranging digital humanities research and development team within the context of a special collections department. Dot holds Master's degrees in Medieval Studies and Library Science and started her career working on image-based digital editions of medieval manuscripts. Her current projects focus on the digitization and visualization of medieval manuscripts.



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