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Classics@17: Digital Literacies

Edited by Paul Dilley

[From the Introduction] This volume of Classics@ aims to explore and analyze how the present digital turn enables a renewed theoretical engagement with multimodal ancient literacies. Cultural transmission in Antiquity was primarily oral, supplemented by images and texts. Nevertheless, Classicists first employed the term “literacy” in the singular, according to its 19th-century definition: the ability to read and write texts. But since the 2000s, the plural form has gained currency, notably in Johnson and Parker’s collection of essays, Ancient Literacies, which explores literacy from the perspective of “text-oriented events embedded in particular sociocultural contexts.” Different settings, kinds, and uses of literacies emerge, often reflecting differing specializations, competencies, and social hierarchies. In the past several decades, new digital tools and expanding digital culture have provided additional opportunities to explore and theorize ancient literacies.
The connection between digital and ancient literacies can be elucidated by the of New Literacy Studies, which explores literacy “in its full range of contexts and practices, not just cognitive, but social, cultural, historical, and institutional, as well.” Given this broader perspective, the importance of literacy as it relates to digital media, including the internet, is steadily being recognized, even if no clearly defined academic sub-field devoted to it has emerged. According to the American Library Association, “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills. ” The articles in this collection explore various aspects of digital literacies as they relate to the study of the ancient world; indeed, we use the plural form to signal their diverse modalities, following Parker and Johnson’s approach. The multiple contexts, uses, and practices of digital literacy include pedagogy in and beyond the undergraduate classroom (Tulley); the building, use, and evaluation of a major online scholarly resource (Bacalexi and Skarsouli); the use of digital affordances to theorize the optimal means of presenting ancient medical sources (Reggiani); the role of coding, and how to learn it, in the study of ancient languages (Burns, Hollis, and Johnson); and the difficulty in visualizing the “qualitative” uncertainty in humanities data in a way that does not mislead the viewer.


Introduction, Paul Dilley, with David Bouvier, Claire Clivaz, and David Hamidovic

Dina Bacalexi and Pinelopi Skarsouli, "Digital Literacies and the Study of Antiquity: Case Studies on Databases."

Patrick J. Burns, Luke Hollis, and Kyle P. Johnson, "The Future of Ancient Literacy: Classical Language Toolkit and Google Summer of Code."

Ryan Horne, "Addressing Divergent Digital Literacies and Visualizing Data Uncertainty in Social Networks and the Ancient Greek Garrisons Project."

Nicola Reggiani, "Ancient Doctors’ Literacies and the Digital Edition of Papyri of Medical Content."

Christine Tulley, "Exploring the “Flute Girls” of Ancient Greece through Multimodality."