Ongoing discussions in academic circles about the value and purpose of 3-D immersive technologies have lately been sharpened by the emergence of consumer-ready VR and inexpensive game engines, especially Unity. One side of that discussion asserts that, in an academic context, these technologies are primarily valuable to the extent that they advance serious scientific and data visualization research. Others maintain that game design and “play” more broadly are equally important, and can transform how we teach many subjects. One approach does not exclude the other, of course, but my own experience has convinced me of the exciting potential of the latter, play-based, mode. For classicists, interdisciplinary as we are, the 3-D interactive future of research and teaching beyond textbooks holds important opportunities, especially if we take an active, collaborative role in shaping that future.
The pitfalls facing intermediate Latin students as they move from a basic knowledge of forms and the simplified Latin of textbooks to actually reading Latin are well-known. It’s not just the artful word order or sophisticated grammar of classical texts. As Kenneth Kitchell emphasized in a well-known article (Kitchell 2000), the geographical and cultural knowledge required can baffle even the student well trained in verb forms, case usage, and syntax. Then there is the well-known tendency of students themselves to ignore low-hanging fruit, to spurn the solicitously extended helping hand in the form of commentaries on their Latin texts, notes specifically designed to help them surmount these difficulties. What can be done?
This article was originally published in Amphora 11.1. It has been edited slightly to adhere to current SCS blog conventions.
That sinking feeling when you realize you’ve completely underestimated the scope of a project? I’m far more familiar with it than I’d like to admit. It was what I felt when I began analyzing the data I gathered in the library and vaults of the American Numismatic Society on provincial coinage minted under the Severan dynasty. I’d received a grant from my home institution to place the images and legends on provincial coinage in conversation with that of imperial coinage. I thought by doing so, I could bring to life the negotiations of ideology between local concerns and imperial propaganda.
As an amateur photographer and ancient history enthusiast, I have spent countless hours exploring ancient sites throughout the Mediterranean. In the process, I accumulated a very large number of photographs that I wanted to archive, edit, and share with the world. In 2009, after 3 years of traveling, I decided to start uploading my photos to Flickr. This photo-sharing site was founded in Canada in 2004, and acquired by Yahoo and moved to the US in 2005. As of fall 2016, the site reportedly had 122 million users in 63 countries and was the repository of 10 billion images, with a million more added on an average day. Size and popularity, however, were not the reasons why I chose Flickr. I wanted a photo site that would allow me to edit, annotate, organize, and store my images.
The English academic term Classics has conventionally designated the study of Ancient Greek and Classical Latin. The department from which I received both of my academic degrees makes the point explicit: its official name is “the Department of the Classics.” The department focuses upon Greek and Latin and the addition of the definite article asserts that these are the only Classical languages.
Catullus Online is a freely available digital edition of the poems of Catullus. It can be accessed simply as a Latin text of the poems—in editor Dániel Kiss’s own edition—or with each line linked to a full apparatus. Many poems can also be viewed in photographs from important manuscripts (such as O, courtesy of the Bodleian Library). This is a useful project for its intrinsic value as a new text of Catullus, for its ease of availability, and for the directions it implies for new tools in the study of very old texts. Here I will review it briefly as a text of Catullus, as a website, and finally as groundwork for the kind of online Catullus edition we can hope for in the future.
Digital technology can support the emergence of a new kind of environment for reading, exploring, and thinking about classical texts—even those in unfamiliar languages. But realizing the ambitious goals for the new reading modalities, described in an earlier post, is a non-trivial task and requires research of various types.
Attic Inscriptions Online (AIO) presents translations of Attic inscriptions alongside cross-references to Greek texts, images, and notes. The website is the creation of Stephen Lambert and is affiliated with the Europeana Eagle Project. As of March 2017, AIO contains over 1,000 inscriptions with the eventual aim to provide translations of the 20,000+ inscriptions originating from Athens and Attica. The majority of the translations are by Lambert himself, with the remaining texts translated by a team of collaborators.
Podcast listening is more popular than ever. Data from the large Infinite Dial survey shows steady yearly growth in the share of adults over 12 who have listened to at least one podcast. In 2016, 36% reported having done so, for an estimated 96 million people nationwide. The time is therefore right for classicists to embrace this medium for public engagement.
While podcasting takes time and preparation and may have a steep learning curve, it is very rewarding. Research interests come alive in a new way when you create and share your ideas via podcasting. Listener responses will help you develop your ideas in new directions. Podcasting also breaks down academia’s walls, creating a wider audience and inviting the public to see what scholars do and why it matters.