Original, authentic, copy: conceptual issues in digital texts



Publication Details

Barwell, G, Original, authentic, copy: conceptual issues in digital texts, Literary and Linguistic Computing: the journal of digital scholarship in the humanities, 20(4), 2005, p 415-424.


This article focuses on the conceptual issues faced by scholarly editors and textual studies specialists. Theoretical debate in this general field is still active as digital texts present special problems and magnify others. Older theory and methodology are hampered by unacknowledged, sometimes inappropriate cultural values and other limitations, and are not always useful in connection with digital texts. Nevertheless, the distinction between the abstract work and its concrete expression is influential both within and outside the field. In this approach, the concept of authenticity relates to the degree of change a work undergoes or the accuracy of the ‘instructions’ for its reconstitution. Whether the digital text is best thought of as immaterial or material is not as crucial as might first appear. The way a digital text is made visible is important, though potentially paradoxical. In order to be workable, the concept of authentication by instructions needs further technical assistance, like that provided by the Just-in-Time Markup System. But, despite its limitations, traditional textual scholarship still has much to offer textual studies in digital environments.

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