Conference report: The recent ICMS’s “Digitizing the Middle Ages” sessions unveiled the Digital Transformation of Medieval Studies

The recent “Digitizing the Middle Ages” sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS) in Kalamazoo illuminated the transformative power of digital tools and methodologies in reshaping our understanding of the medieval world. The three virtual sessions, sponsored by the Corpus de la Bourgogne du Moyen Âge (CBMA) and the Laboratoire de médiévistique occidentale de Paris (LaMOP) under the organization of Eliana Magnani, Nicolas Perreaux, and Gabriel Castanho, explored the impact of digitized corpora on visual culture, textual arguments, and material evidence, sparking lively discussions and possible new research paths during.

Session 1: Visual Arguments

The session on visual arguments challenged conventional notions of medieval art and the role of categorization in digital preservation. Pedro O. Silva’s presentation, “(Un)worthy Images: How Categorizing Medieval Art Affects Digitalization,” sparked debate by examining how selective digitization can shape our perception of historical visual culture. Silva used a 13th-century copy of Digestum vetus to illustrate how certain images may be deemed “unworthy” and excluded from digital archives, potentially distorting our understanding of medieval art.

Among others, the session also explored the potential of digital tools for reconstructing medieval urban spaces. Hélène Noizet’s presentation on the Alpage project offered insights into how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enable new questions and spatial correlations in the study of medieval Paris. Meredith M. Cohen’s discussion of the Paris Past and Present project demonstrated the power of digital reconstruction in bringing lost monuments, like the Lady Chapel of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, back to life.

Session 2: Textual Arguments

In the session on textual arguments, scholars delved into innovative approaches to analyzing medieval texts. Stéphane Lamassé and Fabrice Issac’s presentation, “Understanding Numbers in Medieval Texts,” shed light on the often-overlooked significance of numerical representation in medieval documents, emphasizing the need for new approaches to analyzing mathematical texts.

Sébastien Barret’s presentation, “Back to Dom Mabillon’s Future: Digitization, “Auxiliary” Sciences, and a Collaborative Project,” explored the potential of digital methods to revitalize the “auxiliary sciences of history,” such as paleography and codicology. Barret discussed how digital tools can facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing among scholars, paving the way for a more unified and comprehensive approach to historical research.

In the presentation of the DiDip Team, Tamás Kovács delivered a presentation on “Analyzing Medieval Charters through Large-Scale Text Reuse Analysis” introduced a refined approach to studying the evolution of medieval charters. Kovacs showcased a custom software tool called TRACE (Text Reuse Analysis and Comparison Engine) that can detect the reuse of phrases from normative legal texts within these documents, offering insights into legal and cultural practices of the time.

Session 3: Material and Sensorial Arguments

The session on material and sensorial arguments highlighted the diverse ways digital tools can illuminate the material culture of the Middle Ages. JaShong King’s presentation, “Jurisprudence or Politics? The Historiographic Impact of Digitally Encoding Late Roman Legal Texts for Emotional Sentiment,” explored the use of sentiment analysis on late Roman legal texts to detect imperial political agendas, demonstrating the potential of digital tools to uncover hidden layers of meaning in historical documents.

Octave Julien’s presentation, “Statistical Codicology as a Framework for the Analysis of Digitized Manuscripts,” introduced a methodological framework for analyzing large corpora of digitized manuscripts, emphasizing the importance of accounting for noise and fuzzy data inherent in this resource.

Overall, the three sessions of “Digitizing the Middle Ages” in Kalamazoo showcased the exciting potential of digital tools and methodologies to transform medieval studies. From challenging traditional categorizations of art to uncovering hidden meanings in legal texts, the conference presentations demonstrated how digitization is opening up new avenues for research and collaboration. As digital technologies continue to evolve, we can expect even more new discoveries and innovative approaches to understanding the medieval times.

Link to the slides: Analyzing Medieval Charters through Large-Scale Text Reuse Analysis



Cite this blog post
ktamas (2024, May 16). Conference report: The recent ICMS’s “Digitizing the Middle Ages” sessions unveiled the Digital Transformation of Medieval Studies. DiDip. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://didip.hypotheses.org/2534

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