13.0281 perfectability of texts

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 18 Nov 1999 18:28:51 +0000

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 281.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

From: Jean-Claude Guédon <guedon@LITTCO.UMontreal.CA>
Subject: Re: 13.0278 markup & scholarly practices
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 17:03:25 -0500

I find this perspective totally fascinating and it runs very much in
directions that I have been following myself in recent discussions with
French colleagues at CNRS. It deepens and amplifies an idea I have been
pushing about digitization processes and the need to distinguish
between perfection and usability. This idea can be put in rather
familiar, if somewhat startling, terms:

Like little children, texts could come out to the world
rather imperfect, but closely followed by parents and god-parents plus
all sorts of good wishers. Then, through various iteration processes,
they could be e-ducated (cf the latin etymology) out of imperfection
toward ever greater perfection, until reaching redemption and
salvation... :-)

I would like discussion on this theme. Perhaps a separate list should
form on this topic.


Jean-Claude Guédon


Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 18:20:29 +0000
To: Humanist Discussion Group <Humanist@kcl.ac.uk>
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: perfectability of texts
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Like Jean-Claude I am fascinated by the idea of the perfectability of texts
through early publication, even (in the case of those we write) their
communal evolution. The former is illustrated by the Suda On Line project
<http://www.stoa.org/sol/>, the latter by my own practice of publishing
essays and then changing them as people react to the contents.

Let me ask some questions about the "open source" approach, if that is the
right term.

(1) What are the technical problems to be faced? There's version-control,
which is to say a tinker-proof mechanism for identifying the version by
number and/or date. But this must be subsumed, I'd think, by an identity
mechanism that would allow you to tell you had an out-of-date version, yes?
Any ideas here?

(2) What are the implications of maintenance? If issuing texts in immature
states becomes a regular feature of academic publishing, then who takes on
the responsibility for their perfection? Who becomes the reliable parent of
the child? Do we have orphans and foster homes? Problems of abuse?

(3) What are the professional implications? How do we tell what sort of
recognition to give someone for publishing an immature work? When do we
give whatever kind of recognition? If multiple hands are involved, some of
them only slightly, to whom to we give how much credit?

(4) What are the intellectual implications for a world in which radically
imperfected work is based on radically imperfected work?

(5) Does what we know of medieval scholarship give us any insights into
such a fluid world?

Yes, fascinating!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
<Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
maui gratia