Category Archives: Theoretical framework

Preliminary announcement: colloquium “Interpreting Textual Artefacts: Cognitive Perspectives and Digital Support for Knowledge Creation”

I am currently working on putting together a colloquium, as a closing (and opening towards future research) event for my fellowship.

More details will be posted here soon, but in the mean time, here is an overview.

Interpreting Textual Artefacts: Cognitive Perspectives and Digital Support for Knowledge Creation

Colloquium

Date: 11th & 12th December 2012 (early afternoon 11th to tea time 12th)

Place: University of Oxford (Lecture theatre at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St Giles’ Oxford OX1 3LU)

Overview

The reading of textual artefacts in cuneiform studies (Assyriology), papyrology, epigraphy, palaeography, and mediaeval studies is at the core of the creation (discovery, invention) of new knowledge of past cultures and civilizations. The artefacts in themselves are devoid of meaning, and it is their interpretation and re-interpretation that contextualizes them and turns them into conveyors of knowledge.

This colloquium aims to convene scholars from a wide-ranging selection of fields in order to explore how knowledge is created through the act of interpretation of ancient documents. Each session will put into dialogue the work and methods, both digital and more traditional, of ancient documents scholars with findings from the cognitive sciences around the processes involved in the act of interpretation of ancient documents.

Through this event, we aim to gain a better-integrated view of the cognitive processes involved in the interpretation of ancient documents as well as some ways of supporting them and facilitating them digitally. As a tangible outcome of this colloquium, the presented papers will be gathered into an edited volume.

This 1.5 day colloquium will be articulated around the five following sessions:

  • Materiality and visual perception
  • Kinaesthetic engagement in reading
  • Word identification
  • Structural knowledge and context
  • Creativity and collaboration

Do mark the dates! All welcome!

 

On Expertise and Expert Performance

Expert (Chambers Dictionary of Etymology)

What do expertise and expert performance have to do with this digital curation of knowledge creation project?
Well, if I can understand better what expertise is, where it comes from, and how it is constituted, I will have armed myself with a very valuable tool to identify how experts in the reading of ancient documents can be digitally supported in their task.
The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance [1] is a very informative and rich book, which gathers findings on and around expertise as studied from various points of view: from Psychology, from Artificial Intelligence, from the Cognitive Sciences. Here are the highlights of my readings, presented, of course, within the framework of my own interests, that is, my aim to develop a piece of software which experts working with inscribed artefacts (including papyrologists and ancient near-east scholars) will find useful to conduct their research.

How to define Expertise?
Naturally, expertise is defined with respect to a specific domain; experts are specialists, they excel in a given domain. Yet regardless of the domain, there are two stances to define expertise and thereby experts. The first one states that expertise is a talent; this is the absolute approach, where experts are identified as those who produce exceptional results. The other one states that expertise is characterized by a high level of proficiency; this is the relative approach, where experts are those whose achievements and experience are greater than that of novices [2]. In that scope, Hoffman [3] defined the following proficiency scale (analogical to the craftsmanship stages as established in medieval times): Continue reading On Expertise and Expert Performance

On public vs private research

Back from Würzburg, where I attended the “Digital Palaeography” ESF exploratory workshop (talks and abstracts here) – and on which Dr. Dominique Stutzmann reports in his blog – I find myself pondering on issues of public vs private research. Youtie, times before the widespread adoption of digital tools, already commented on this issue in the context of papyrology. In his 1963 paper [1], he presents the internal workings of what papyrologists do. In doing so, he defines public papyrology, which consists in presenting the results of papyrological work by publishing editions of the studied texts. These editions usually offer a diplomatic transcript, a reconstruction of the text, a commentary on the presented interpretation, and sometimes a line drawing of the text, along with photographs of the text-bearing artefact. Once the edition published, further interpretation of the text is open to scholarly debate and to its use as evidence for further historical research. Upstream, the work of the papyrologist, however, is much more of a private activity, which aims to produce a transcription of the text, and is paved with what Youtie [1, p27] describes as:

“[…]the doubts, the hesitations, the numerous false starts and new beginnings; the guesses sometimes confirmed, sometimes rejected by the script;  the continual recourse to books for information of every sort – lexical, grammatical,  palaeographical, historical, legal; the interludes of exhaustion and depression[…]”

Unsurprisingly, I realized at the Digital Palaeography workshop that palaeographers seem to undergo the same type of process. In his keynote, Prof. Eef Overgaauw underlined the fact that uncertainty is ubiquitous: “No answer is final” he said, “No result is conclusive. They are all provisional.”

Not only does this chime with my current reflections on uncertainty, it also made me acknowledge that the notions of public and private research do likely extend beyond papyrology and palaeography, and that the shifting shape of uncertainty Continue reading On public vs private research

‘Şalmu’ and the nature of digitized artefacts

Last term (Hilary term 2011) at the traditional Oxford Slade Lectures, I had the chance to hear Prof. Z. Bahrani speak about the nature of representations in the Ancient Middle-East. The title of her lecture series “The Infinite Image: Art and Ontology in Antiquity” (many thanks to Prof. A. K. Bowman who flagged them up!) resonated with some of the questions we were dealing with while working on the e-Science and Ancient Documents project. I was  not able to attend the very first lecture, but enjoyed tremendously the second one, as well as all the following ones. The second lecture, entitled: “What is/was an image?”, struck very close to home and got me thinking about mimesis and subsequently about the nature of digital images of artefacts, or more generally of digitized artefacts. Continue reading ‘Şalmu’ and the nature of digitized artefacts

From Artefact to Meaning

Initialement dans le contexte de la recherche en papyrologie et en épigraphie, mais à plus longue échéance dans le contexte d’artefacts culturels et historiques en général (textuels ou non), ce carnet de recherche vise à documenter:
• l’étude des pratiques des experts lorsqu’ils s’attèlent à la tâche de déchiffrement et d’interprétation d’un artefact.
• les méthodes adoptées afin de provoquer, d’identifier, de soutenir, et d’enregistrer les moments clefs de la découverte, de la création, de l’invention de la signification des objets étudiés et du savoir historique qui en découle. Ces méthodes auront recours à des approches issues aussi bien des sciences cognitives que de la philosophie et de la sociologie des sciences.
• l’élaboration d’un logiciel de support pour cette tâche, basé sur les résultats d’études de cas.
• l’évaluation de l’impact de l’outil informatique sur les pratiques traditionnelles, et son intégration dans le processus professionnel des chercheurs.
L’objectif ultime est de montrer que, au-delà de la curation des (méta-)données attachées à un artefact, il est essentiel d’aussi conserver les étapes intermédiaires de la création du savoir attaché à cet objet afin, le cas échéant, d’en faciliter la ré-interprétation. La contextualisation des objets est cruciale à leur interprétation, et par conséquent à leur signification, telle qu’elle est restituée dans les musées. L’aspect narratif associé à la diffusion du savoir historique et culturel consistera aussi en un des objets d’études de ce carnet de recherche.