Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

The Roman World is 99 Days Long

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by apini

I had just finished teaching a historiography review session for my undergrads who are taking the exam in a little over a Imageweek when I was emailed this story about a new mapping tool for the ancient Roman world.  Maybe it was just because I had been talking about Braudel, but I couldn’t help but see the comparisons – and the possibilities for ‘total history’ in new digital tools.

Scott Weingart pinpointed what makes this technology so exciting in his blog review of ORBIS:

ORBIS is among the first digital scholarly tools for the humanities (that I have encountered) that really lives up to the name “digital scholarly tool for the humanities.” Beyond being a simple tool, ORBIS is an explicit and transparent argument, a way of presenting research that also happens to allow, by its very existence, further research to be done. It is a map that allows the user to engage in the process of map-making, and a presentation of a process that allows the user to make and explore in ways the initial creators could not have foreseen.

In other words, it’s not just a digital archive for historians (as so many digital tools in the humanities are), or a useful interactive database, like the Slave Voyages Database, that generates so much controversy in part because the user is not involved in the process of formulating the data.  And it’s not like the virtual Rome project, which basically just allows the user to see what Rome would have been like.  All of these are very cool, but it’s the interactivity of the research that is particularly cool about ORBIS.

I hope people use this for teaching as well as for research.  And personally, I think it’d be great if someone put this together for the British Empire.  Or for West African trade…..


Written by apini

May 11, 2012 at 04:59

Posted in Uncategorized

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