Digital Scholarly Editing of Born-Digital Texts: Why and How?

Lamyk Bekius

Born-digital archives are already a reality in (literary) heritage institutions, and their share will only increase in the near future. This presents a number of challenges and opportunities for those involved in working with personal and literary archives, including scholarly editors and genetic critics. The materiality of the source material is already digital in born-digital texts, so what role does that leave for the scholarly editor? On the other hand, it is precisely this digital materiality that significantly alters the ‘traces’ of the writing process. Common word processors tend to hide the writing operations: additions are always visualised on the screen as inline text production, and deleted text ‘disappears’ from the screen. In addition, there is also the question of how structured authors are in saving different versions under different names, not to mention whether they are documenting the writing process as they work towards the first version. How, then, can the genetic critic study the dynamics of the writing process? In my talk, I will discuss why digital scholarly editing remains relevant when dealing with born-digital literary archival material, and how scholarly editors and genetic critics can adapt their methodologies to this new reality. I will consider a variety of examples of born-digital material, including files on floppy disks and keystroke logging data, and the insights they provide into the authorial writing process – especially when ‘traditional’ methods meet these ‘new’ digital sources.