Digital Text Cycles: From Medieval Manuscripts to Modern Markup


  • Terje Hillesund University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway


The paper argues that the current implementation of digital publishing is a minor step in a long development of digital text cycles. Rather than being a revolution, the digital transformation of text is an evolutionary process heavily influenced by social and cultural factors. The paper introduces the concept of a "text cycle". An examination of basic features of paper-based text cycles and features of digital text cycles demonstrates that digital technology has a potential for change that far exceeds that of the "Gutenberg revolution". However, by applying a historical perspective, I will try to show how the deep and enduring cultural heritage of print is impeding the radical potential of digital texts.