9.564 online & electronic publication

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 21 Feb 1996 18:43:19 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 564.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: "Gary W. Shawver" <gshawver@epas.utoronto.ca> (25)
Subject: Theses (and other academic work) on CD-ROM

[2] From: Andrew Armour <armour@pncl.co.uk> (34)
Subject: Re: 9.556 CD-ROM dissertations

[3] From: Ted Parkinson <parkinsn@mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA> (22)
Subject: Re: 9.556 CD-ROM dissertations

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 22:14:39 -0500
From: "Gary W. Shawver" <gshawver@epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Theses (and other academic work) on CD-ROM

The recent discussion about publishing theses on CD-ROM has got me to
thinking about the larger issue of electronic academic publication and how
present technology serves it. One recent innovation on the WWW has been
Netscape's introduction of 'frames.' It seems to me that this innovation,
if adopted by other Web browsers offers some unique features that will
serve the academic community well both on the Web and in other forms of
e-publishing. In its simplest form, it allows the publisher to present a
constantly accessible index or toc 'frame' along with a viewing 'frame'
thus allowing the reader hypertext-like access to any part of the
publication in any order the reader may wish. Before frames, it was
necessary to paste such an index on the top and bottom of each Web page to
approximate this effect. In its more sophisticated form, it allows for
multi-level indices and display areas. For an example of the former see :


for and example of the latter see:


(Netscape 2.0 required).

Finally, I would like to suggest that since web browsers are becoming
almost ubiquitous that the future of electronic academic publication lies
not with StorySpace or Hypercard or some other proprietary scheme, but with
HTML--a language that will be read by an increasing number of applications
and that is relatively easy and cheap to produce. This kind of publication
may offer us opportunity to take advantage of a kind of convergence between
"fixed" e-publication on CD-ROM and access to that most unfixed of mediums,
the internet.


Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996 23:38:10 +0000
From: Andrew Armour <armour@pncl.co.uk>
Subject: Re: 9.556 CD-ROM dissertations

At 06:53 PM 2/19/96 -0500, Ari Kambouris wrote:
>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.

And there will always be a need for trees. People may continue to "curl up"
with pulp fiction, but not with doctoral dissertations. They'll go on buying
paperbacks at airports, but not monographs. We need to search dissertations,
perhaps hundreds at a time -- for strings, references, concepts, etc. -- and
thus even acid-free paper versions are found wanting. They must be replaced,
now. But not by CD-ROM, a technology that is already showing its age. CDs
deteriorate even faster than paper. Even the company that has made the most
profit from academic CD-ROMs already realizes that it's time to shift to the

It is worth remembering that although CD-ROM drives will go the way of 5-1/2
inch FDDs, we will always be able to read HTML pages, just as we can still
read WordStar files. Encoding is not really the problem. And whether the
student decides on plain ASCII or full hypertext, graphics, VRML and Java is
irrelevant. Just as long as it is accessible on-line.

I hope we will soon see all dissertations delivered electronically, archived
(complete with digital signatures, of course) at university libraries, and
made available for browsing and downloading over the Net. Inexpensive,
cross-platform, global access. Paper, CD-ROM and other tangible versions
will no doubt be welcome, but these should be treated as ephemeral and of
secondary importance.

To my mind, rather than discussing whether it's OK to produce a dissertation
on CD-ROM, we should be asking ourselves why we haven't insisted on students
delivering their papers in electronic form for the last five years. This is
a matter of some urgency. We may consign pulp fiction and tabloids to
paper, but we cannot afford to treat dissertations in this way. Even the
"quality" newspapers are going on-line. Perhaps there's hope for the trees yet.

Andrew Armour
Keio University

Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 09:42:21 -0500 (EST)
From: Ted Parkinson <parkinsn@mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>
Subject: Re: 9.556 CD-ROM dissertations

> 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

This statement does not, in itself, distinguish "hypermedia" from any
other well written print article that "engages" its reader. The act of
reading is an act of performance, as is the act of writing. Surely any
journal or book article is "dependent" on its medium, just as that journal
(or book) "depends" on printing articles that make it worth reading. The
term "expressive" is too vague to consider as a defining quality. I agree
that hypermedia has obvious benefits, and some of them are even scholarly,
but they are often presented in a fairly uncritical manner, as if we were
supposed to accept the medium as _a priori_ "new and exciting" when, in
fact, the majority of its rhetoric has been around for quite a while.

Ted Parkinson
Department of English
McMaster University parkinsn@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca
Hamilton, Ontario