barwell 2005 excerpts

Original, authentic, copy: Conceptual issues in digital texts

For textual studies, digital texts present special problems and magnify others. Three examples will suffice. The first is a result of their ease of reproduction, alteration, corruption, and transmission, much greater than in the case of texts produced on paper—the challenge is in determining the relationships between apparently identical copies of the one digital text. Provenance of the file, reliable metadata, and some technical aids are important here. The second
challenge comes as a result of computer processing requiring a kind of precision or at least removal of ambiguity in the work being represented in characters and markup. In some respects this is analogous to the change from manuscript to print, where, in the course of preparing a printed form of, say, a medieval work which was designed for manuscript circulation, an editor must determine whether variations in the forms of individual letters or marks over them are meaningful. Markup technologies and agreed ways of representing artistic works are helpful here. The third challenge comes with the increased development of certain forms of textual production, genres, and practices: nonsequential texts, unbounded texts like hyperlinked web pages, multipleauthored texts, genres like computer gaming, the practice of game modification by players, and so on. The study of many of these forms is still developing and textual specialists still have much to do. (↵Barwell 2005: 418, my emphasis)