The other day I posted about a new iPad Shakespeare app being developed by Luminary Digital Media. It seems to be iPad-meets-early-texts week. The latest installment of The Jewish Review of Books includes a review by Elli Fischer of ArtScroll Digital Library’s Schottenstein Talmud App, Version 1.0. In addition to a review of the app itself, Fischer’s piece offers a provocative overview of the implications of digital technology for the study and comprehension of the Talmudic commentary tradition. Here is what he has to say about the natural fit between hypertext and exegesis as realized in the app:
[O]ne can see that ArtScroll has only begun to exploit the great explanatory and expressive power that the app makes possible. Not only will one be able to swim in “the sea of Talmud” and its commentaries without ever either entering the Beit Midrash or leaving one’s seat (both of which are, arguably, losses), but the touchscreen app may actually be better suited to conveying the depth of the Talmud, with its bottomless commentary and endless allusions. ArtScroll says that future updates will provide hyperlinks to the original sources cited in the commentary, and between the commentaries of different tractates.
Scholars of the Christian commentary tradition have made similar observations, and any number of medievalists have shown the compelling analogies between hypertext linkage and medieval biblical exegesis (most recently David Salomon, whose provocative Introduction to the Glossa Ordinaria as Hypertext was published a few months ago by University of Wales Press).
Here is a screen shot, just to give a taste of what the ArtScroll app looks like:
Here’s an interesting piece from The Times of Israel that discusses ArtScroll’s decision to make the app independent of the internet following the initial download (as a warning screen puts it upon loading, “This app does not require the Internet for daily use. Following the ruling of leading rabbinic authorities, web devices should be used only with filters”).