Textonics: an introduction to electronic philology
Digital philology studies texts and textuality in electronic networks and the ways of their reading, writing and transformation. Electronic texts are much more fluid and transformable than paper texts and oral utterances. Textonics is a combination of theoretical and practical work with digital texts, the use of the Internet and all the capabilities of computer technology to create new sign ensembles, to develop new genres of intellectual creativity, and to rethink and reorganize existing textual formations. This article introduces a number of theoretical concepts, denoting different configurations of digital texts: megatext — a collection of texts that are perceived and studied as a single thematic or semantic whole; unitext — the totality of all megatexts; supratext — the text of a higher order in relation to the given one; syntexts united by a common supratext and functioning as synonyms with respect to each other; peritext — a list of syntexts, a table of contents as presented by a search engine. Each author and researcher of electronic texts has to interact with the entire Web: each word has to be properly placed not only within its immediate context, but also in the supratexts of its usage by other authors throughout the history of writing. As a result, the main philological procedure is shifting: interpretation, as a deep-semantic reading of a text, is increasingly superseded by its retextualization, transformation, expansion or narrowing of its sign frameworks. The internet makes it easy to synthesize new texts that integrate or disperse the initial, analysed text via quotes or hyperlinks. Thus, coherent, linear reading and writing give way to the paradigmatic, cross-cutting approach. With the proliferation of automatic translation programs and the multilingual competence of readers, the interaction among languages also changes: translation as a search for equivalence gives way to an interlation, a constructive metamorphosis that plays on the inequivalence of different languages.
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