9.556 CD-ROM dissertations

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 19 Feb 1996 18:53:40 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 556.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Matthew Gary Kirschenbaum (35)
Subject: Re: 9.547 CD-ROM dissertations

[2] From: ari kambouris <aristotl@oeonline.com> (33)
Subject: Re: 9.547 CD-ROM dissertations

Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 21:44:21 -0500 (EST)
From: Matthew Gary Kirschenbaum <mgk3k@faraday.clas.virginia.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.547 CD-ROM dissertations

I'm currently beginning work on an electronic dissertation at
Virginia, under the supervision of John Unsworth and Jerry
McGann. Tentatively entitled _Poetry, Information, and
Hypertext: Towards a Poetics of Cognition for the Networked
Academy_, the dissertation will be Web-based, in the form of
HTML documents with a possible VRML installation.

I'd like to take a moment to respond to a few of Patrick
Coppock's recent comments on hypermedia, especially those that
relate to "form and content." Though he acknowledges that the
two are "related" in some way, much of what I perceive as the
skepticism underlying Coppock's post on hypermedia scholarship
is an outgrowth of his assumption that production is not
altogether the scholar's business, and is perhaps best left
to those who possess the requisite technical expertise:

> One way to increase the focus on content and to decrease the focus on form/
> medium is obviously to work towards more collaboration and distribution of
> responsibilities in the publishing process between people with different
> kinds of expertise and to learn from one another.

In at least some of its possible manifestations, I would argue
that the opportunities offered by hypermedia scholarship are
precisely the transcendence of the distinctions between form
and content that Coppock suggests should be institutionally
reinforced. To do so does indeed require that a scholar learn
some of the "production" skills, but I see no reason why those
skills must stand separate and apart from what we value as
intellectual labor or achievement--though I am aware that Deans
may feel differently. Still, the most compelling scholarship
for me has always been that which is performative, in which
medium and message are mutually codependent and expressive.
Hypermedia ought not to be perceived as that medium which can
only flourish in the absence of the scholar's primary
responsibility toward the circumstances of its production.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum University of Virginia
mgk3k@virginia.edu Department of English
http://faraday.clas.virginia.edu/~mgk3k Electronic Text Center

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 12:18:23 -0500
From: ari kambouris <aristotl@oeonline.com>
Subject: Re: 9.547 CD-ROM dissertations

The inital query about dissertations on CD-Rom and Patrick Coppock's
comment in this batch bring up areas of inquiry in which I am currently
involved. Within the next month, Electra Press (myself and two partners)
will be sending around a prospectus soliciting theses to be "published" on
CD-Rom. Our solutions to the multiple platform/format question does not
include truly interactive multimedia dissertations. We will basically be
reformatting the written version as a reference text accessible via CD and
grouped with other texts dealing with similar topics or fields. From the
practical point of view, we will be using a cross-platform engine that can
handle both text and graphics so that users do not have to have a
particular word processing platform to read the information on the disk.
Our chosen emphasis is the content of each thesis. We want to provide an
inexpensive way to consider the latest research and information in a
portable, easily accessible way. The intent is not to replace the
original, paper document, but to set it up as part of a reference system.
There will always be a need for books, as it is to hard to curl up with a
good computer screen and we are familiar with the ways that books work.

Within the context of current multimedia programs, too much emphasis is
placed on the "gee-whiz" aspects of the medium. The prospect of adding
sound, digital video and hyperlinks within a particular document is
seductive from a visual standpoint, but too often serves to mask a lack of
content. Additionally, hypertext and hyperlinks can lead the user too far
away from the original point (ala Netscape or Mosaic), working as
obfuscators rather than clarifiers. One simple question that might be
asked is: Is this medium appropriate to the material? In the case of
Leslie Jarmon's dissertation, using an interactive CD to support her thesis
on interface design and electronic document design seems entirely
appropriate. This may not be the case with other topics. This question
will become more important as the tools to create multimedia become easier
to use and more accessible. Within a short time, students will not have to
become masters of Lingo and Director in order to produce sophisticated
interactive projects.


Ari Kambouris