The Past's Digital Presence: Some Reflections, Part I

I’m finally getting around to posting on the Yale conference. Between myself, Genevieve, and Meghan, I think we were able to canvas nearly all the topics touched upon during the day. In the interest of brevity and specificity, I’ll focus this post on the third session that I went to, and save some of the other topics for posting about later.

I had pretty high hopes for session III, “Finding the Words: The Digital Linguistics Database,” thinking the topic of the Semantic Web and the challenges (e.g., compromised meaning, level of nuance, etc.) of creating and mapping language ontologies might come up. I guess my hopes were a little too specific, because ontologies were never really touched upon. Suffice it to say, I think it should be something those outside the fields of computer and information sciences should be thinking about, and those with subject specializations (particularly linguists) should be writing about this. (Also, if you happen to know of someone who is writing about it from such a perspective, can you point out their stuff to me?) In fact, the University of Georgia audio archiving project was a bit disappointing even; when queried about metadata standards during the Q&A the presenter, Paulina Bounds, seemed to indicate that the metadata being generated for the project was primarily for internal use, and did not even seem to be aware of metadata standards as a means of making resources share-able.

However, some of the presentations were rather interesting, and as you can see, I liked the handout from the “Digital Kiksht” presenters. And it highlighted the challenges of digitizing obscure languages–the lack of UNICODE for some of the characters used in the alphabeticized transcriptions of a language that has no original written form (it was originally recorded by a linguist using a precursor to IPA, the American Phonetic Alphabet).

Unfortunately the first speaker seemed to rush through her presentation, which made it difficult to follow–although the bits I was able to gather were interesting. Eugenia Kelbert’s “Menage a trois, or a General Theory of Communication,” ( focused primarily (it seemed) on a particular Russian school of communication theory. Although she also mentioned Claude Shannon–a fond little reminder of LIS 653. Her talk was also rather quote-heavy. However, one that I liked:
“…the disclosure of art’s nature as a communication system can effect a revolution…”
I believe is can be attributed to I︠U︡riĭ Mikhaĭlovich Lotman, The Structure of the Artistic Text.

I think I will leave it there for now, with further reflections to come.