Patrick J. Burns

Research Associate at Harvard Human Evolutionary Biology | Formerly Quantitative Criticism Lab, ISAW Library | Fordham PhD, Classics | CLTK contributor

Autodidacts and the ‘Promises’ of Digital Classics

Chapter for Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean (Digital Press at U. North Dakota, 2020), eds. W. Caraher and S. Heath. oa-icon


In this brief response to the Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean conference, I consider an audience for Digital Classics research outside of the academy—in fact, outside of formal education all together—namely, independent learners who are able to use our publications, platforms, tools, and datasets to teach themselves about the ancient world. In this essay, I argue that the dominant practice of open-source development and open-source distribution in Digital Classics demonstrates “promise” to this audience in two important ways: 1. it represents our fulfillment of a contract that our research output should be a contribution to knowledge in general (as opposed to a contribution for a select academic audience); and; 2. it activates the learning potential of an audience who for a variety of reasons will not become our students in a formal educational context. As such, the digital resources—and especially the open digital resources—presented and discussed during DATAM can be seen as a kind of outreach; that is, they are contributions to the field which foster curiosity and engagement in the objects of our study and increase the number of people who can engage meaningfully with them.

Full volume available here.

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