What happens when a Tibetan book is abstracted and reduced from its material form and cultural setting? How does the practice of digitizing transform the way that we think about and handle Tibetan books? Thinking through these and related questions, this paper examines current modes of representing and accessing the digital Tibetan book. We consider what tangible features, aesthetic and codicoligical information is lost in the transformation of a book into its digital version, the E. Gene Smith ontology of the Tibetan book, and how layers of data abstraction can be connected to enhance our knowledge about the book and book culture in Tibet. Querying the boundaries of the digital Tibetan book, we discuss the impact and potential of emerging research tools. Moving the book from being a cultural object to a semantic object, we examine the efficacy of searchable eTexts and how knowledge models enable us to construct and query encyclopedic data about the literary historiography of the book in Tibet.

Symposium on the Tibetan Book
The University of Virginia (UVA)
November 6-8, 2014