Representation: The action of standing for, or in the place of, a person, group, or thing, and related senses. Something  which stands for or denotes another symbolically; an image, a symbol, a sign.

Re-presentation: Presentation of a person or thing for a second or further time; an instance of this.

(Oxford English Dictionary)

This week I have been thinking a lot about my word for our final project: representation. Which has led me to think about its closely aligned neighbor, re-presentation. Often this week, these two words became elided in my mind. (For blog readers not in dh201, our class is collaboratively building an online encyclopedia of words related to the digital humanities. Each of us has chosen a word to explore, interrogate, define, and represent (!) through text, images, video, graphics or audio.)

How do I represent (re-present) representation in our encyclopedia?

I have been thinking about the contexts (places, ideas, objects, people, phenomena) in which representation manifests itself. So many of our day to day objects are representations of or for something else: a map or a dance can represent points in space and geometry; a piece of music can represent math, physics, and emotion; a painting can represent shape, line, perspective, and emotion; a book can represent authorial and publisher intent.

In the digital humanities, representation is closely aligned with the word “model.” According to Williard McCarty, a model is “either a representation of something for purposes of study, or a design for realizing something new.” And then there are of course, computers, which are “not so much engines of computation as venues for representation,” [italics in original] which when used to model or re-present an artefact or phenomena provides the opportunity for new perspectives, understandings, and interpretations about the artefact/phenomena to emerge.

And there is another form of representation, evinced through cultural protocols:

The database Digital Dynamics Across Cultures, (a database of photographs and videos documenting the stories and places of historical importance to the Warumungu community located in Tenant Creek, Australia) is a precursor to the content management system, Mukurtu, and a project in the Vectors Journal, Ephemera. Besides containing digital representations of the Warumungu community’s cultural artefacts, the database also represents (and digitally re-presents) the community’s cultural protocols concerning the distribution, viewing, and reproduction of their cultural knowledge through limiting access to images or information in harmony with their beliefs.

This blog entry has only scratched the surface in defining and interrogating the ways in which representation and re-presentation can be manifested in a digital environment…to be continued.

 

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