Digital Obsolesence



In his article “Disciplinary Impact and Technological obsolescence in Digital Medieval Studies”, which can be found at; ” ” O’ Donnell gives us an interesting and fairly comprehensive analysis of the trials and tribulations of the digital scholarship in the Medieval studies. It is not a tribute to the technological world, nor is it an attempt to discredit its contribution to the world of scholarship; O’ Donnell gives a very balanced account of both the positives and negatives that technology and its advances have to offer.

“… technology has allowed scholars to do far more than was ever possible in print.” In this statement O’ Donnell is being utterly truthful, Digital scholarship has ment that videos, audio and high quality pictures can be included in electronic editions and such. Without the digital medium, scholarship would be severely limited, and O’ Donnell seems to both realise and respect this fact, not burying his head like some Medieval scholars. He quite bluntly deals with fact that due to its very nature of change, technological advancements have ment that digital medieval scholarships have been aged more quickly, and been limited by the fact that within a year, or two, some new technology has come to the fore and left everything behind it looking decrepit.

His most striking, example of this was the Electronic Domesday Book, a brilliantly innovative project that was initiated by the BBC, but that was a catastrophic failure due to the serious lack of foresight by its designers. The project was too expensive for its target audience, and was also designed for BBC Master Personal Computers, computers that were hardly popular at the time. Unfortunately, this Domesday project was hardly the exception to the rule, throughout the world scholars have work that have very limited accessibility due to the technologies that they are saved on, thus limiting people’s ability to gain access to what could possibly be important information. Quite simply “…technology ages faster than information”, many projects have condemned themselves to obsolescence due to this very fact. There is a hope that we wont simple advance ourselves out of using any previous technology… There is also a hint that as technology speeds along we wont be able to keep up with all of the necessary “tools”, something that O’ Donnell felt himself when writing his Caedmom’s Hymn in 1997 and found himself far behind in the technological world.



O’ Donnell also gives a very comprehensive list of references and further reading. I think that he has realised that he does not have all the information or answers, and is awear that no final solution has been made to the topic of technological obsolescence, thus meaning that his article is limited. There are approximately 26 items listed under further reading, giving the reader a very broad list to choose from.

His step by step standardised approach to this topic of obsolence is very readable and user-friendly, his conclusion is succinct and clear, making his opinion that we have not reached the end of this particular issue as of yet, and that a great deal more work is needed to combat the quite simple fact that; “…technology ages faster than information.” And that experimentation with software is needed sooner, rather than later. He does break up the tension by quipping about a speaker “confessed to having devoted most of the previous month to researching and writing a long article for the Wikipedia on his particular specialism in Medieval Studies.” This little anecdote gave the end of the article a humorous twist, and left the reader with a little simile to finish off quite an excellent article on what should have been a very dour subject matter.


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