21.130 ideal readers for a database

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 07:33:34 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 130.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 07:06:22 +0100
         From: Wendell Piez <wapiez_at_mulberrytech.com>
         Subject: Re: 21.125 ideal readers for a database

Dear Willard and HUMANIST:

At 05:32 AM 6/24/2007, Desmond Schmidt writes a paragraph which gets
close to the core of the problem raised by Neven, I think:

>However, you make another valid point, when you complain that it is
>difficult "to consult different readings". When we directly transfer
>the printed structures of "edition" and "apparatus criticus" into the
>digital medium we are like the early printers who made books in the
>image of manuscripts. It took them 100 years to realise their mistake.

This is an apt analogy, except what might have happened over the
course of that century was that the reader of the printed book
emerged, displacing the readers of manuscripts in the considerations
of the printers. It wasn't a mistake as much as it was an evolution.

To Gutenberg, having the red as well as the black ink on the page
might have been terribly important because he knew it was important
to his audience, if only as a proof of concept: "We can also have
colors". A hundred years later, however, readers and collectors of
books had decided that to demand a printed book with any more than
"pro forma" gestures at manuscript facsimile (the "form" of such
efforts being bounded implicitly by what was practicable in print
technologies) was simply beside the point.

A similar evolution is now underway with electronic media -- which is
why the "use case" is both so important, and so difficult. In short
(to recall an earlier thread), it's not just software that "spirals"
in its development, it's the expectations, wishes and abilities of
users themselves.

>We still think of the text as one version, whereas in fact it is many.

This is an interesting statement that invokes long arguments that
many readers of HUMANIST can trace better than I can. Even if
accepted, it raises the issue of how best to represent many as one.
The most devoted user of the apparatus criticus in a print edition
will not, I hope, argue that such an interface is the best that can
be imagined.

>This fact has to be built into the archive itself and made the
>fundamental structure of the text. Otherwise we will forever be
>scratching around trying to compare a text here in one format with a
>text there in another, or building closed systems that do what we want
>but don't interact with others. Markup can't record variation very well
>but markup is what we are seemingly stuck with, and that is why I think
>it is difficult to build the flexibility you crave.

I would emend this only to say not "markup" but "current markup-based systems".

And use this opportunity to plug next month's meetings in Montreal --
ah, but I see Patrick already has:



Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez_at_mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc. http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207 Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD 20850 Fax: 301/315-8285
    Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML
Received on Tue Jun 26 2007 - 02:49:06 EDT

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