Whilst this blog has been dormant for the last few years, work has continued. The outcomes of the fellowship that prompted me to start this research blog are presented in the following paper: http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/openbook/chapter/dhc2012-tarte, (published in 2014).
In a nutshell, the core of this work consisted in identifying a range of strategies that experts deploy when reading and studying ancient documents. These strategies were identified through ethnographic observations of experts at work; these observations were then tentatively related to results reported in the cognitive sciences.
Searching for further funding to continue this work, I was recently able to secure funding from the OUP Fell fund to design experiments in order to test the validity of the intuited correspondences between my ethnographic observations and findings from the cognitive sciences literature.
Here are the title and abstract of our project proposal:
Cognitive Underpinnings of Reading Handwritten Scripts: Investigating Variations for Applications in Digital Palaeography (CURHSIVA-DP)
This interdisciplinary proof-of-concept project brings together research in Classics, in Cognitive Neuroscience, and in the Computer Sciences through the study of ancient cursive handwriting. For Classics, this research aims to understand how various expert strategies are called upon in palaeography, i.e., in the expert study of handwritten letter shapes (beyond the ability to read and understand ancient documents – e.g. papyri -, palaeographical analyses provide insights into the circulation of people, cultures, and ideas) – eventually aiming to facilitate teaching in palaeography. For the Cognitive Neurosciences, this research aims to investigate how cursive scripts are read, thereby complementing knowledge of the processes involved in reading, with the incorporation of handwriting variability (most studies on reading are conducted with printed text) – with possible applications in education. For the Computer Sciences, this research aims to derive a better understanding of which particular aspects of the reading of handwritten scripts can be delegated to computational tools – eventually to investigate ways to develop such tools -, and which are those that are best left to human experts. To that effect, we will undertake studies where participants will be presented with letters and/or words in a script unknown to them. The script of choice will be Demotic, a (mostly) alphabetic form of Ancient Egyptian. These studies will evaluate the role played by knowledge of pure shapes and of the sounds associated with these shapes in the cognitive process of reading words as a combined act of visual perception and attribution of meaning.
This project seems the perfect opportunity to resume activity on this blog.