10.0674 on the Web

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 7 Feb 1997 19:57:07 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 674.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (75)
Subject: going beyond the field of vision

[2] From: Fabrizio Pregadio <pregadio@unive.it> (68)
Subject: Re: 10.0665 how to read the Web?

Date: Fri, 07 Feb 1997 19:50:09 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: going beyond the field of vision

Perhaps it's just me, but I do have the impression now that online
publishing, because of its extent, variety, and constant change, has dilated
far beyond anyone's capacity to grasp. This is certainly the conclusion
reached by Zygmunt Bauman, who in a recent review of Claus Offe's
<cite>Modernity and the State</cite> (Times Literary Supplement 4895 24/1/97
pp. 4-5), suggests that it mirrors life at the end of the millenium, in
"that bizarre formulation" known as modernity. He quotes Cornelius
Castoriadis, "valiant Greek insurgent turned French political philosopher",
on modernity: "a state of permanent revolution, a society that puts itself
continually in question, refutes all 'pre-given meanings' (including the
meanings it accorded itself the day before) and guards its 'freedom to
create ever new significations'." Such a society "'lives in chaos, it itself
is the chaos which strives to give itself a form, but a form never fixed for
all time'." "As in the boundless, uncharted and unchartable expanses of the
Internet virtual reality," Bauman notes, "in the increasingly patchwork-like
space of society made up and unmade again by an indeterminate number of
small and very small units, constantly changing in size, density and
cohesion, no one is in control, and no one is truly capable of scanning the
whole territory and the set of issues which would have to be the subjects of
such control."

Now, perhaps, maintaining that *definitive and comprehensive* list of
Internet resources for Classics, or Anthropology, or whatever seems a
lighter task, because we know it's impossible and are let off the hook. To
me the signs are quite clear that many of us, thinking like consumers, have
been misconstruing it all along, as if it were some great if unstable
reference work. Giles Foden, Deputy Literary Editor of the Guardian (see
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/>), in the latest TLS quotes Brewster Kahl, who
wrote last year in Wired that "Information retrieval is not about finding
out how much tannin there is in an apple. It's about letting everyone
publish." Thus in his article, "Surfing is for fun: The true purposes of the
Internet and its limitations as a reference tool" (TLS 4897 7 Feb 1997, pp.
11-12), Foden writes that "...in fact, it is a mistake to think of the Net
as an easy-access encyclopedia. It is really a huge pool of knowledge <i>as
it is being made</i>." Although Foden or the TLS, or both, cannot seem to
spot syntax errors in a URL or be very precise in referring to a resource
hidden away on a commercial server, the article is worth reading and, like
Bauman's piece, shows how seriously the Internet is being taken, even when
it is not treated as a serious tool. He suggests -- a fine topic for a PhD
dissertation, perhaps -- that "It would be a useful research project for
somebody to see how the political implications of the world of electronic
reference relate to those of print reference", pointing to Diderot's
translation of Chambers's Cyclopaedia and to the political implications of
open access, freedom from censorship, etc. He notes that "the Internet is
vastly weighted towards the United States, in terms of both production and
reception", and that because those who post and those who read overlap so
much, "the Net may not be thought a medium at all, except in reverse
feedback terms". "And whatever we are searching for, however long it takes,
we may in our hearts wish that the Net does remain unstructured and wildly
unpredictable. Its natural mode is epiphanic rather than taxonomic. As such
it is a handmaiden to the creative imagination, bring strangeness and beauty
to birth; not the key to mythology then, but mythogenesis itself."

Finally, Mary Beard (Classics, Cambridge) reports in the latest Guardian
Online, "on the modern approach to studying an ancient world", in "Go Greece
enlightening", which is available at <http://online.guardian.co.uk/one.html>
until the next issue, and thereafter at
<http://online.guardian.co.uk/computing/855151904-percy.html>. The second
half of the article focuses on the Perseus Project, about which she has
reservations. She notes the popularity of computing technology among
classicists, attributing it partly to the training they get in creating "a
virtual reality Ancient Rome in our heads", partly on the passion for
systematising and accessing all knowledge in their ken, partly on the need
to survive in an age of declining enrolments in classics programmes. She
appears not to see the irony in the attraction of the Internet for
systematisers of knowledge, although it seems to me that a culture which in
some sense produced Ovid, and he the Metamorphoses, has to have a
fundamental affinity with the metamorphic, metempsychotic Internet.

How interesting: the Web coming into focus as an important cultural artefact
and, of course, mirror of ourselves. Just what humanities computing is
about, yes?


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk

Date: Fri, 7 Feb 1997 18:41:11 +0100 (MET)
From: Fabrizio Pregadio <pregadio@unive.it>
Subject: Re: 10.0665 how to read the Web?

[ Part 2: "Included Message" ]

From: Fabrizio Pregadio <pregadio@unive.it>

Joel Elliot and other readers of Humanist may be interested in the message
I reproduce below, posted a few days ago on H-ASIA (H-Net list for Asian
History and Culture). I'm sure I'm only one of many people who find the
Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library (ASVL) an essential tool to access good
quality resources on Asia on the Web.

The ASVL includes a Newsletter which can be accessed from the ASVL home
page. This resource enables users to input information concerning their own
new Web materials or those of other people or institutions. This
information is evaluated by the ASVL editors before being actually
published in the Newsletter, typically one day after submission. Part of
the Newsletter entries finds its way to the appropriate sections of the
ASVL itself. Moreover, all entries added to the Newsletter can also be
received via e-mail by subscribing to a mailing list.

The ASVL is an excellent example of how information on the Web can be
provided and accessed. The fact that much data are provided by the same
people who use them is certainly part of its success. The other part is due
to the great editorial work done by the team that maintains it.

Fabrizio Pregadio
Ca' Foscari U. of Venice

From: "T.Matthew Ciolek" <tmciolek@coombs.anu.edu.au>

The Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library (ASVL) [http://coombs.anu.edu.au/WWWVL-AsianStudies.html] was established in March 1994 by the Coombs Computing Unit at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS), The Australian National University. The ASVL provides an authoritative, continuously updated hypertext guide and access tool to scholarly information resources on the Internet. It deals with the Asian continent as a whole, as well as individual Asian regions, countries, and territories.

In this multinational collaborative project, 25 editors are in charge of cataloging and evaluating potential links: ten in the United States, six in Australia, two in the Netherlands, and one each in Argentina, Austria, Macau, Malaysia, Portugal, Taiwan, and Thailand. These 'virtual librarians' are either scholars, postgraduate students, or networked-information specialists employed by universities, libraries, and research institutes. Their task is to maintain accurate, comprehensive, current, and annotated catalogs of online resources selected on the strength of their reliability, authority and usefulness to inquiry and analysis regarding Asian societies, politics, economies, histories, and cultures. Together this team manages 55 subdivisions organized by country and region offering over 6,500 Internet resources from around the globe, including archives, library catalogs, documents, bibliographies, electronic-journal registers and mailing lists.

The ASVL's collaborative philosophy enables individual editors to focus on his or her area of specialization, to build on colleagues' expertise, and to avoid redundant web monitoring and web cataloging. Unlike general purpose Web searching tools such as Yahoo, InfoSeek, or AltaVista, the ASVL allows scholars to easily locate and access researcher-oriented online publications.

The ASVL is a decentralized, distributed online resource catalog which consciously avoids "infotainment," aiming instead at the narrow and selected audience of academics, librarians, journalists, and graduate students. ******

Additional details on the Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library project are available from http://coombs.anu.edu.au/WWWVLAsian/VLAbout.html

Dr T. Matthew CIOLEK tmciolek@coombs.anu.edu.au Head, Internet Publications Bureau, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, http://coombs.anu.edu.au/CoombsHome.html http://coombs.anu.edu.au/WWWVL-AsianStudies.html The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200 ph +61 (0)6 249 0110 fax: +61 (0)6 257 1893 =================================================================