Where medieval studies and digital technology meet is where one will find Dr. Dan O’Donnell (English).
As someone devoted to the study of the Middle Ages who also has a great interest in digital media, O’Donnell is at the forefront of digital media in the humanities.
His interest in digital media has greatly supplemented his work in medieval studies. “It was very important for me to have experts elsewhere in the world helping me out with my research into medieval studies. It was this need that led me to found the Digital Medievalist (DM) Project,” says O’Donnell.
The DM Project is the centre of O’Donnell’s work. He describes the project as a traditional online peer-reviewed journal surrounded by a community of practice.
DM’s web site and mailing list allow specialists to contact and help each other with their studies. The project also includes a wiki, which is a web site that allows users to easily interact, change, post and share onscreen material.
O’Donnell’s interest in technology has not detracted from his medieval studies. He recently published a book called Cædmon’s Hymn: A Multimedia Study, Edition and Archive.
Cædmon’s Hymn is believed to be the first surviving poem written in English. It also sparked some of the earliest examples of literary criticism, which exist in the literature surrounding the poem.
O’Donnell’s book focuses on how this poem was read in its time and what it meant to those who read it.
“It is the only poem in the entire Anglo-Saxon period where we have somebody saying something about its quality and its author. Most Old English poetry is anonymous, and no one ever talks about reading it,” says O’Donnell.
The book has been published in electronic and paper formats. Since digital publication is still relatively new to the humanities, O’Donnell hopes that his
work can become a model for electronic publications.
“We are still very much in the early stages in making electronic editions, so publishing conventions haven’t been set yet,” he says. “We are all busy trying to experiment with what is the best way of publishing information electronically.”
Whether O’Donnell is studying the past or using modern technology, he believes that the humanities have a lot to gain from digital technology. He hopes it will continue to enable academics to communicate, disseminate and educate more efficiently than they have in the past.
“I think it is up to humanists to take advantage of the possibilities the new technology offers,” says O’Donnell.
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