METHODOLOGY \ PRINCIPLES \ 312
1: G. Buccellati, November 2005


A Digital Monograph

Digital thought

Introductory
Structure: the three great disparities
Digital thought in practice: digital publishing
Correlates and conclusion
The Urkesh Global Record

     The impact of the computer on archaeology, and more broadly on the social sciences and the humanities, must be considered here in detail – especially because the Urkesh website is experimenting with ways of using the digital dimension as a more explicitly distinctive method of inquiry. The question of digital thought is thus a cornerstone of this whole website. I am talking not about the technical, but rather about the methodological impact – how the computer affects, or should affect, our way of thinking, in general and as it relates to archaeology in particular.
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Introductory

  1. Concepts. – I will first define the major concepts that underlie my understanding of the issue, beginning with digital thought itself as distinct from pre-digital reasoning. This has to be understood in terms of how the argument is construed, in the sequentiality of its component parts and in their connectivity.
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Structure: the three great disparities

     Central to creative thought is the ability to connect phenomena and ideas. This is obviously proper of thought in general, not just digital thought. But the new dimension is defined by some fundamental concepts that relate to the way in which connectivity among data is brought about. There are three fundamental disparities which act as triggers of creative thought in general, and are built systemically into the fabric of digital thought. They are:
  1. Non-contiguity/capillarity. – With regard to the data, a nexus is seen where none is immediately apparent, allowing connections, in a complex referential tree, between the most minute supporting detail and the most generalized conclusion.
  2. Discontinuity/reconfiguration. – In the construction of the narrative, elements of disparate nature and origin are reshaped into alternative sequences.
  3. Non-linearity/multi-linearity. – Within the flow of an argument, explicit linkages connect multiple juxtaposed sequences.
  4. Historical perspective. – It is useful to see the potentially profound impact of digital thought in relationship to its various antecedents, beginning with the all important transformations that took place with the introduction of writing.
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Digital thought in practice: digital publishing

     Building on this theoretical basis, we should explore how digital thought takes shape in practice. After addressing questions about the nature of digital writing and reading, and after outlining more specifically the details of digital publication proper, I will propose two concrete examples from our website.
  1. Digital text. – How does it differ from a text that simply uses the electronic medium?
  2. Digital narrative and discourse. – How do they flow in such a way as to both retain and surpass the logic of a standard sequential argument?
  3. Digital reading. – Next to the new tasks of the authors, the readers are also expected to develop new habits.
  4. Digital publishing. – What emerges is a new type of digital publishing, which has an intellectual dimension that goes well beyond the mere fact of being electronically based.
  5. Concrete examples. – I will here illustrate the application of theoretical principles to two specific cases chosen from our website.
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Correlates and conclusion

     Finally, I will broach two topics of more general theoretical import that are particularly relevant for my overall effort, and draw some overall conclusions.
  1. Grammar . – While tagging is generally recognized as central to a digital text, one aspect that must be more clearly stressed is that it should happen not in an ad hoc fashion, but within the framework of a comprehesive and overarching grammatical system.
  2. Automation. – It is important to see how automation should impact not so much the mechanics of the operation as the intellectual scaffolding of the overall construct.
  3. Conclusion: the impact on perception. – Matched against the impact of writing on human thought, how do digital innovations impact on our way of thinking and our perceptual habits?
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The Urkesh Global Record

     The full implementation of the principles outlined here for the digital dimension are to be found in the Global Record, which occupies (quantitatively) the major portion of this website. The specific deTails that apply more particularly to this record are given within the framework of the Mozan Sitewide book of the Global Record, under INTRODUCTION \ DIGITAL DIMENSION.
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