9.528 promises, promises

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 9 Feb 1996 21:35:17 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 528.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu> (31)
Subject: the promise of e-publishing

Teaching novices about the realities and promises of Internet publishing
leads to sober reflections. I and my technologically fortunate colleagues
tend to get all wrapped up in the charming, interesting, and sometimes even
useful Web publications that, we think, now abound in great numbers. Then
some of us have to face novices in usually under-equipped classrooms who are
trying to see the same glow on the horizon that we see. Those with some
imagination and legs capable of a leap of faith can get past the
accidentals, but then they encounter the real problems, among which
bibliographic instability seems to me the most serious. The question is not
only how do I refer to a given Web page, but of what value is that reference
when the link may break 5 seconds from now?

I know there are technical schemes afoot to deal with the problem of link
rot, as it is charmingly called. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I
could tell us about the technical developments. I have the suspicion,
however, that the real message coming through to us is -- the genius of this
medium is really elsewhere.

After pondering on where this genius might lie, I am wondering if it isn't
wiser to think about taking advantage of the transitory nature of
e-publishing to use it for that which we wish to be transitory. (O that more
of what one has to read were to disappear of its own accord.... :-) If I
observe social scientists correctly, they tend to engage much more in
"interim" publication than humanists do. It appears to me, that is, that
their primary objective is to get ideas quickly into circulation, not to
arrive at monumental results. So far in the humanities (correct me if I am
wrong) the interim material has simply not been made available. Is there a
potential here for us, as it were, to be more conversational in our
research, more socially active? Should we take it? Those of us who use
computers in our research may often have worthy things to say at the interim