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Workshop 3: Epistemic Networks

Jun 29, 2018 | 09:30 AM - 12:00 PM

in the context of the Annual Conference of the Collaborative Research Centre 980 "Economies of Knowledge − Order and Transgression in Premodern Cultures"

There are many different ways for bodies of knowledge to be set in motion and to undergo restructuring: for one, a text can be transmitted via a sequence of copying practices. Individual copyists can draw on just one, but also on two or more prototypes; if the latter is the case, we speak of contamination. This term, however, is quite inadequate to accurately describe this process. It would be much more apposite to envisage a dynamic scenario of reciprocal exchange between the individual manuscripts, initiated by their travels from one place to another and by the commissioning of further copies. This dynamic scenario finds its continuation in the subsequent trajectories of old and new codices. As knowledge is transferred from one scholar to another, marginal glosses are added to the individual manuscript, and the text is supplemented with new readings and explanations, or, conversely, established readings are “expurgated”/the text is “liberated” from established readings via crossing out of undesirable lines. In this process, knowledge is constantly rewritten, embarks on its further travels equipped with a surplus of text (e.g. an Aristotelian treatise), and is thus reconstituted for future readings. Many actors and factors are involved here – e.g. the paper or parchment used, the commissioner of the copy, the choice of itinerary, the number of compiled textual witnesses, the techniques of the scribal school, the intended readers and owners of the manuscript etc. – whose complex entanglements can be described through an historical analysis of their interactions and the related processes of epistemic change.

In other epistemic constellations and situations of knowledge transfer, too, a plurality of factors and protagonists comes into play – for example in Early Modern language primers/textbooks, where aspects such as the didactic concept, the author’s level of knowledge, his or her own reading experience and real-life encounters, the book’s overall objective and intended audience, but also the target language for the translation, all interact with each other.

Similarly, printed editions of certain works or authors can also act as dynamic carriers of knowledge by transferring items of knowledge to a new library at a new location, by becoming part of a library’s new organisation system and by being read alongside other, newer texts, by being linked to the reading experience and interests of their respective users via annotations, by being furnished with a new title page, or by being bound together in a volume with other, more recent treatises.

Based on cutting-edge information technology, the workshop aims to demonstrate that multidirectionalities of this type can, in many cases, be identified as a characteristic trait of knowledge transfer. The bespoke information infrastructure that has been developed specifically for the participating projects not only serves to represent this multidirectionality – the workshop will also showcase tools that have been designed with the goal of detecting it in the first place. Further to this, tools will be presented that are capable of illustrating the various factors of influence governing the reconstruction and reconceptualisation of knowledge.

In so doing, the workshop will provide a contribution to the current discussion on methodology in digital humanities, exploring models for a mutually beneficial complementarity of methods between the qualitative approaches of the historical humanities on the one hand – the participating projects belong to academic disciplines as diverse as Classical Philology, Egyptology, Modern Greek studies and German studies – and computer science on the other hand.

To register for this workshop, please send an email to krewet@zedat.fu-berlin.de.

Further Information

Conzept: Gyburg Uhlmann, Germaine Götzelmann, Philipp Hegel, Michael Krewet, Sibylle Söring and Danah Tonne

The workshop will be held in English.