The born-digital holograph: how digital material affects our notion of revision

Activity: Talk or presentationAcademic


Nowadays, most authors compose their text in a word processor. This may lead to several digital documents, each representing a variant of the text. Saving the file with a different name, however, can happen with arbitrary intentions. A saved document therefore is not necessarily the equivalent of a first draft, in which additions, deletions and substitutions can be regarded as revision. Text that was added between two such snapshots of the work-in-progress may just as well be regular production.This distinction between new production and revision should also be made when analysing keystroke logging materials, but how? Within cognitive writing process research, revision is mostly understood as “making any changes at any point in the writing process” in the visible text (Fitzgerald, 1987: 484; Sullivan et al 2019: 346). The keystroke logging software Inputlog makes a distinction between insertions, deletionsa nd normal production. In this definition normal production takes place exclusively at the end of the text produced so far. But this is a simplification that does not do justice to literary writing; where we know production is not linear (e.g. in ‘parcels’, Van Mierlo 2015) and a complex text can have several entry points for new production. Bryant regards revisions as “the visible sign of altered intentions” (2002). This suggests the distinction between revision and ‘production’ is a matter of interpretation, not a formalisation of different types of text alterations. In this paper, we will argue that the granularity of digital material drives us to be more specific about what we understand as revision, and that the scale at which we approach our materials (Van Hulle’s ‘a version of what?’) has implications for our delimination of the concept of revision.
Period18 Mar 2022
Event titleESTS 2022: Histories of the Holograph. From Ancient to Modern Manuscripts and Beyond: Conference of the European Society for Textual Scholarship
Event typeConference
LocationOxford, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational