Digitization of Texts/The Archive

In the article titled “New Age Scholarship: The Work of Criticism in the Age of Digital Reproduction” by Dr. Sean Latham, I was struck by a few quotations about the digitization of texts and what some of the critiques are around that action. I will speak specifically about the archive in relation to this text and what commentary it provides on digitizing texts in general. 


The text below features a perspective that I understand, as someone who would rather see the actual objects of an archive in front of me, rather than digitally through a screen. 


“The ability to search an archive without paying due heed to the density and linearity of the book, Myron Tuman argues, produces ‘harried and information-driven readers’ whose frenetic motion prevents reading deeply, ‘closely and over long periods of time.’ Such activities are sacrilegious affronts to the rituals of the book and are framed here in a rhetoric of inattentive laziness. The digital text seemingly makes reading too easy, allowing one to search out specific terms without the labor required to place them in their proper context” (416). 


I appreciate that digitizing these materials makes access to them less of an issue, but I can see why some critics may have a negative view of how digitization takes away from the essence of the archive. I found the following excerpt to be more hopeful about the future of digitizing texts, texts which eventually may become a part of an archive one day.


“Digitally extracted from the bound volume and constantly in a state of assembly and dissolution controlled by the critic, the electronic text opens itself to entirely new strategies of reading limited only by a researcher’s imagination” (416). 


In the beginning of this course, I viewed an edition of Scribner’s in both ways, in person and online. I will say that the act of researching was easier and therefore faster, as I was not worried about handling the object harshly or in the wrong way. I could easily flip the pages of the text online, which was not as easily done inside the physical archive space. Had a person not viewed the physical text in person, then having the ease and accessibility of the online version may have led certain audiences to have a lack of appreciation for the archive and the methods which are used in the research of it. I prefer to see these documents in person to understand its aura, to be in the presence of a historical object. However, I do think that after I take note of the physicality of the object and come to know what is special about it with my own perception, then further research, especially on the technicalities involved in recording the documents contents, is more easily done on an online version of a document. I hope the physical archive does not become overshadowed by the benefits of utilizing online versions, although I do hope that those digital versions remain available. Having both versions to research from would be ideal.