Final Digital Scholarship Incubator Reflections: Laurie Shepard

This post is part of a series of final reflections from 2017 Digital Scholarship Incubator participants.


Laurie Shepard: The three prompts all point to the same problem of designing a site that takes full potential of the digital platform. How do we fully problematize our data? How do we design a site around the data, which is transparent and easy to use, but at the same time a site that will produce more understanding, that will move forward our knowledge of the questions we are asking? I think that success in this last point is the way I would judge a site.

Starting with traditional data, in my case literary texts, how do I refocus on them in the ways that the digital platform offers? My questions concern the communities of production of comedies in the first half of the sixteenth century in seven Italian cities. Keeping the texts at the center of the project, how do I effectively integrate them with the different producers, consumers, and propagators i.e. printers, the places where they were produced and consumed, the circumstances of performances?

I have learned in this seminar that when it comes to digital sites, less complexity is usually better than more. My organization principals are time and place – I suppose that the vertical axis will list the 7 cities where comedy played a role in the cultural politics, the horizontal bar will provide a timeline. Various kinds of information can be attached to the timeline, texts to both axes. The site will include a personography, and potentially some graphs showing the intersection of persons in cities, and the role of printers, especially in Venice and Florence, in the propagation of comedies. It will include images of persons as well as some performance spaces. The only additional extensive written texts that I foresee, at least at this point, are letters pertaining to the early productions of the comedies. Most of this material is prepared or in some phase of preparation.

I do not imagine that this site will produce new knowledge. I hope that the comedies will cease to be perceived in isolation and instead be read as integral to a confluence/conflict of different artistic and political interests, technical capabilities, trends and tastes. Ideally the comedies will be understood not only as highly choreographed set pieces, but also as reflections of a rapidly evolving society. Removing the comedies from the isolation of bound books should enrich our reading of them. Key players who were not writers, and have for the most part been forgotten can be recuperated and reintegrated into the production of the comedies.