The Book of Disquiet Digital Archive as a role-playing experiment

1 hour
The LdoD Archive proposes a model for virtualizing the Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa, which simulates textual and bibliographic processes in the conceptual and material production of this work. By placing digital facsimiles in the context of their topographic transcriptions, the LdoD Archive shows the relations of document to text and text to document. By placing both facsimiles and topographical transcriptions in the context of experts’ editions, the LdoD Archive further illuminates the relations of text to work and work to the text. To the extent that each text of each edition can be variably contextualized within an archive of authorial and editorial witnesses, functionalities of analysis and comparison in LdoD Archive highlight the very process of constructing the text from the documents, and the work from the text. Thus, the construction of the book, based on either authorial plans or posthumous editorial decisions, becomes an instantiation of the process of identity and difference that allows text and work to emerge from a set of inscriptional traces and from acts of reading and interpreting those traces.

Besides those features of representational simulation (of the authorial genetics of the text, and its editorial socialization between 1982 and 2012), the LdoD Archive offers a set of functionalities of performative simulation that allow interactors to reconceptualize and rematerialize the work at editorial and authorial levels. This dynamic and social layer of the LdoD Archive enables the reediting – i.e., the selection, organization and annotation of fragments – and rewriting of text – i.e., the creation of variations anchored in specific passages of the fragments. This simulation of literary performativity in the LdoD Archive – encoded and programmed through the reader, book, editor, and author functions – is one of the conceptual and technical achievements of the LdoD Archive. Despite their high value as teaching and research resources, many digital projects remain confined to the expert scholarly community. In the digital archive devoted to Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet (Arquivo LdoD,, published in 2017) we experimented with Web 2.0 techniques in constructing a social edition where expert and common users – in their regular studying, reading, and writing practices – can engage in the creation and publication of new versions of the book. Within this reading, editing and writing space, users are invited to engage with the Book of Disquiet by playing different roles.

The aim of this paper is to describe how the role of the interactors is constrained by the functionalities and the interface of the LdoD Archive, on one hand, and to show how actual users, in formal and informal contexts, have appropriated those functionalities, on the other. We will present the early testing results of the platform functionalities, in terms of users’ interaction. The data will be collected through specific activities with a small virtual group, considering in particular the dynamic processes of editing, annotating, glossing, and rewriting the texts. Through the integration of computational tools in a simulation space, the LdoD Archive provides an open exploration of the procedurality of the digital medium. As both conceptual and technical artifact it contains an innovative model for digital editing and digital writing. By recreating the universe of the Book of Disquiet according to ludic principles of textual manipulation, the LdoD Archive explores reading, editing, and writing practices according to a simulation rather than a representation rationale. The simulation of literary practices contained in the LdoD Archive attempt to address the gap between digital humanities and electronic literature.
PhD student
University of Coimbra

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