3.822 Offline 26 (333)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Mon, 4 Dec 89 20:43:04 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 822. Monday, 4 Dec 1989.

Date: Monday, 4 December 1989 1120-EST
Subject: OFFLINE 26

<<O F F L I N E 2 6 >>
by Robert Kraft


Another year, another time for taking stock. In the immediate
past lies the SBL/AAR/ASOR conference in Anaheim, on the
doorstep of the last decade of the 20th century. Too much
went on at Anaheim to comprehend responsibly, including a
great deal concerning computer assisted research and
scholarship. A large debt of gratitude is due to those who
put together the rich program of presentations and
demonstrations dealing with computer related issues -- Robin
Cover, Alan Groves, Jackie Pastis, Ray Harder, etc., for the
SBL Computer Assisted Research Group (CARG); Tom Longstaff et
al. for ASOR; to mention only the most obvious. And computer
technology was also very well represented in the "book
exhibit" area, with almost 20 separate booths containing
various pertinent services or wares.

<Looking Back>

In OFFLINE 25, Robin Cover gave a preview of the proposed
CARG program. Most of it actually took place as planned, so
there is no point in attempting to repeat the details here.
For those of you who could not attend the CARG Reports
session, printed descriptions of 21 scholarly projects or
products were collected and produced for the meeting by Alan
Groves and copies of that information are still available
from OFFLINE. These reports range all the way from the usual
updates on activites of well known entities (e.g. Oxford Text
Archive, Biblical Research Associates, GRAMCORD, Computer
Assisted Tools for Septuagint Studies = CATSS, Center for
Computer Analysis of Texts = CCAT, Comprehensive Aramaic
Lexicon = CAL, Thesaurus Linguae Graecae = TLG) to such
relatively new entries as two Hebrew Lexicon projects (SBL-
Princeton Seminary; Sheffield) or the use of Apple Macintosh
"hypertext" capabilities to produce Hebrew-Greek lexical and
morphological tools for biblical study or the adaptation of
David Packard's automatic Greek morphological analysis program
for use on IBM type microcomputers.

A wide variety of these scholarly developments were also
exhibited in the CARG demonstration room. And a similarly
wide array of computer applications could be seen in the
regular "book exhibit" hall, including several products for
studying collected biblical and other materials on CD-ROM
(e.g. CDWord from Dallas Seminary; MasterSearch Bible from Tri
Star Publishing; LBase from Silver Mountain Software) or in
other formats (e.g. Zondervan's newly acquired "macBible" --
formerly the PerfectWord). There were some miniature, hand
held computers for Bible study (Franklin; Selectronics) and
some searchable single versions on larger machines (Lockman's
NASV; Zondervan's NIV). The latest versions of popular
textprocessing software were on display (e.g. NotaBene,
MultiLingual Scholar, MegaWriter) and of various other special
use products (e.g. Linguist's Software fonts for the Mac, or
the MemCards package for learning languages). And more! May I
be forgiven for what I may have overlooked! Most of the
specifically biblical texts and products are listed in the
helpful new catalogue produced by a distributor called
Hermeneutika, PO Box 98563, Seattle WA 98198 (1-800-55BIBLE),
which joins Dove Booksellers as a convenient source for such
materials (3165 West 12 Mile Road, Berkley MI 48072, 313-547-

In retrospect, the composite scene proved very gratifying.
Progress is being made. Useful products are becoming
increasingly available. A growing number of scholars are
taking advantage of the powerful new tools and possibilities
for facilitating study that are offered by the computer
world. The ASOR special consultation on Computer Applications
in Archaelolgy illustrated some of the range of interests and
applications beyond the primarily textual. CARG guest Terry
Erdt (Villanova) spoke about progress in optical scanning
technology, and the new Kurzweil 5100 scanner was on display.
Ted Brunner (University of California, Irvine) informed and
entertained us on the history and plans of the TLG project,
while the TLG CD-ROM made its presence known and illustrated
its value in several displays. Developments in the creation
and coordination of other data archives for humanistic
research were also described, and the encouraging role of the
National Endowment for the Humanities in funding such projects
was noted.

There is still a serious gap between those who use computers
primarily or exclusively as a writing and printing device and
those who use them for other scholarly tasks. But even this
is a much more tolerable situation than obtained a mere five
years ago, when computer fobia ran rampant among humanists.
There is still significant fobia, but it is no longer
triggered in most instances by the sight of a keyboard and
screen. Even the use of computer jargon seems less
intimadating, by and large -- we are hearing it everywhere.
Indeed, there are many indicators that the current crisis --
or at least one of the main crises at the moment -- has to do
with getting connected with the larger world of electronic
communications. The main problem, not surprisingly, seems to
be insecurity about whether and how to take such a step:
Why should I want to be plugged in? Won't it be expensive?
Isn't it very complicated? Etc.

<Connecting Now>

Computers are the telephones of the future (not to mention the
present) -- and the telegraphs and the telephotos and, to some
extent, the postal links and the library catalogues and
reading rooms as well. These aspects will all develop at their
own rates and in their own ways, but they will gradually come
together into a multifaceted computer linkage of visual and
audio media. The transmission of visual materials in the form
of words and digitized pictures has been mushrooming of late,
as the "fax" phenomenon attests, and the multiplication of
electronic networks and network users. Communication between
previously discrete or incompatible networks is becoming
commonplace, and the wealth of available information along
with the opportunities for making useful contacts are
mushrooming. Electronic discussion groups multiply, and
electronic journals are beginning to emerge onto the scene.

Opportunities for humanists abound. It is never too soon to
start. Most major universities and their satellites are on
BITNET or another of the academic networks. If you are at such
an institution, you should be able to connect, either by being
wired directly to the system or by telephone modem. Get an
account. Don't be timid. Find out what is available and how
you can make use of it. If your own institution is not on a
network, it is probable that you can make arrangements with a
nearby networked university to be routed through them,
hopefully at a modest cost. In any event you can look into the
telephone accessed services such as HumaNet (see OFFLINE 18),
which provides similar opportunities to those of the
university networks.

My own use of the university networks may be atypical, but it
will serve to illustrate the possibilities. This column is
published first, electronically, on the HUMANIST discussion
group (coordinated from Toronto) on BITNET, several weeks
before it appears in hard copy. The column is also transmitted
to the editorial offices of Scholars Press via BITNET, and any
communications with SP about it or related matters are done
electronically. Similar contributions to scholarly discussion
appear regularly on HUMANIST, to be read or ignored, responded
to or left for possible later reference in the discussion
group archive. If I need to locate a text, or a reference, if
I have a question about humanistic computer developments or
software, or about some newly announced hardware, I can send a
general query in a single memo to the 500 or so members of
HUMANIST. Quick responses are not infrequent. Other discussion
groups are also available and attractive to me -- for IBYCUS
users, for Judaic Studies, for Editors, for Archival Centers,
for Archaeologists and AngloSaxonists (ok, I'm pretty nosy;
trying to keep in touch with related areas of interest!). And
I also keep in contact with my own less formalized subgroups
of individuals such as the CARG steering committee or the
CATSS project staff (local and international).

All the news is not good. It takes time and discipline to
deal with the flood of messages from HUMANIST alone. But I
find it much easier to operate efficiently and effectively
with "e-mail" than with the regular post in terms of keeping
up with my own communications. And the ability speedily to get
answers to queries, or to test ideas, is a great advantage,
not to mention the ability to keep in touch with what is going
on elsewhere throughout the world. Apart from BITNET and
HUMANIST, I also make regular use of the electronic linkage to
library catalogues here at Penn and elsewhere, similar to what
one can also do with online bibliographies such as that of the
American Theological Library Association, which regularly
displays at the annual SBL/AAR/ASOR meetings and could be seen
at Anaheim. From lack of time, and certainly not lack of
interest, I have not yet made much use of the plethora of
other information and opportunities on networks other than
those available directly through the university.

<Looking Ahead>

Again, using the Anaheim sessions as a point of departure,
some important decisions for the future were taken there. The
CARG steering committee reaffirmed its intention to continue
its activities, but with an increasingly wider agenda and more
overt attempts to cooperate with and help meet the needs of
the other constituencies represented at the annual meetings
(ASOR, AAR). Insofar as CARG has its formal base in SBL, it
understandably tends to focus on biblically related research.
But the interests and needs represented at the annual meetings
of SBL/AAR/ASOR are clearly much broader, and it makes little
sense to try to run three CARG-type operations simultaneously,
at least at the level of providing general information and
securing equipment for conducting demonstrations. Contacts
with the computer coordinators in the other societies have
been encouraging, and it is hoped that the activities at
future meetings will increasingly address a larger circle of
interests as well as various levels of need -- from the
beginner through the expert.

A related issue that has long concerned me is worth noting.
There are many scholarly constituencies and societies that
could profit from programs and demonstrations similar to what
CARG has been doing in SBL. Occasionally inquiries have come
to the Center for Computer Analysis of Texts at Penn whether
we could put on some sort of computer demonstration at a
meeting of this or that group. Sometimes it is possible,
usually not. Similarly, the question has been asked about
conducting demonstrations of appropriate computing
applications at regional meetings of SBL and/or AAR, for
example. It cannot be expected that every group has the
ability and desire to generate appropriate program segments
for computer orientation, but there could be a great deal of
value in having an experienced group available for such
services. Exactly how to coordinate, and finance, such an
effort is a worthy issue for discussion in the major societies
and confederations of societies and in the humanities
computing service centers.

Leadership also emerged from the Anaheim meeting on another
matter of great significance for scholarly adjustment to the
computer age. The SBL Research and Publications Committee
has committed some resources to establishing a central archive
to preserve the electronic forms of society publications.
Journals, monographs, abstracts, newsletters, annual programs,
etc., are printed from electronic versions, but the survival
of the electronic forms has not been systematically attended
to until now. Beginning immediately, the electronic materials
will be collected and sent to CCAT at Penn, where they will be
transferred to large capacity storage devices. The initial
primary aim is preservation. Later such questions as
consistency of format, selective electronic (re)publication
and the like may be considered. If you are in possession of
the electronic form of a book or article or similar item that
deserves to become part of these archives, please send a copy
to the OFFLINE address.

As has often been noted before in OFFLINE, creation and
preservation of electronic archives is an important step
towards the emerging future. Over the years the Oxford Text
Archive has managed to establish itself and survive -- even
flourish, in some limited sense -- as a general repository. A
few other similar facilities for producing and collecting
electronic data have been created, usually with specific areas
of focus, in various universities and projects. Nothing has
yet emerged on the scale of the Inter-university Consortium
for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of
Michigan, which serves as a social sciences resource center
for some 300 institutions, although various possibilities have
been discussed at various times.

The task for humanists is immense and will probably require
close cooperation between existing archives and humities
computing centers, major libraries, professional societies and
publishers, to mention only the most obvious. An encouraging
sign is the revival of the Rutgers Inventory of Machine
Readable Texts project, in connection with the newly
established Rutgers-Princeton Center for Machine-Readable
Texts in the Humanities, with funding from the NEH, the Mellon
Foundation, and the state of New Jersey, at present. A project
is also underway at Georgetown University to catalogue the
existing archive-type repositories relevant to humanities. The
formal entry of a professional society such as SBL into this
complex task is certainly welcome, and hopefully will help
serve as encouragement to other similar groups and publishers.

<Making our Needs Known>

This is clearly a period of transition for humanistic research
in relation to technological developments. Much effort on the
part of many will be necessary to make this a smooth process.
The libraries are feeling their way along to determine their
proper roles as repositories and dispensers of information.
Professional scholarly societies of the traditional sort are
gradually becoming more involved. Publishers are attempting to
test the market at various levels. Specific projects in the
scholarly world continue to explore and produce new "data"
(including texts and repositories of information). Some
universities have attempted to address the broader situation
in one way or another -- e.g. the Oxford Text Archive, the
Toronto Centre for Computing in the Humanities, the Rutgers-
Princeton Center for Machine-Readable Texts, the BYU
Humanities Research Center, and a few others. But apart from
such rare exceptions, the educational institutions seem to be
preoccupied with internal needs -- and those not usually of
direct relevance to humanists -- with respect to computer
assisted scholarship.

In some ways the fault may be ours. Often we have failed to
make our needs and wants known to our own institutions, and we
have failed to lend even verbal support and encouragement to
those projects and endeavors that attempt to address our
common interests. It is difficult for an administration,
overburdened with urgent requests from various quarters, to
know what the more silent participants need, or even if they
know, to take appropriate action in the face of the symphony
of squeaky wheels. It has become increasingly clear to me, for
example, that my dean and administration have little awareness
of what CCAT has done or attempts to do for humanistic
scholarship at large (including the production of this OFFLINE
column) and thus find it hard to respond to CCAT requests. I
suspect that the same may be true for some of the other
similarly oriented service and information facilities
mentioned above. Thus when priorities are determined by an
administration, these sorts of humanistic efforts my find
themselves neglected or even discontinued. If we want to avoid
such a situation, and continue to encourage progress in
harnassing computing for humanistic research and instruction,
we need to speak out with intelligence and conviction in
support of making/keeping our humanistic disciplines equally
viable in the new situation. We cannot afford to be left


<Please send information, suggestions or queries concerning
OFFLINE to Robert A. Kraft, Box 36 College Hall, University
of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA 19104-6303. Telephone
(215) 898-5827. BITNET address: KRAFT at PENNDRLS. To request
printed information or materials from OFFLINE, please supply
an appropriately sized, self-addressed envelope or an address
label. A complete electronic file of OFFLINE columns is also
available upon request (for IBM/DOS, Mac, or IBYCUS).>