10.8 impermanence

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 8 May 1996 18:44:49 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 8.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: "Peter Graham, RUL" <psgraham@gandalf.rutgers.edu> (23)
Subject: Re: 10.4 citing Web documents

[2] From: Marta Steele <Marta_Steele@Pupress.Princeton.Edu> (24)
Subject: transitory/permanent

Date: Tue, 7 May 96 23:10:16 EDT
From: "Peter Graham, RUL" <psgraham@gandalf.rutgers.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.4 citing Web documents

With all respect, I think Willard McCarty's musings on the value of
impermanent scholarship verge too much on trendiness to be helpful. By
which I mean he appears too easily to accept what presents itself as
the current reality; I think it's important to lead the parade in the right
direction rather than just join it.

Certainly electronic communication is not like print and we can't try to
apply all print models to it; but we can try to apply models or values that
we think are important. One of those values is the idea that something worth
saying is something worth keeping, which we have embedded in writing and
printing and other marking ("recording") techniques. There are techniques in
development that will allow us to keep what has been recorded electronically,
and I look forward to having them in our quiver. The fact that a quantity of
scholarship (and conversation in various media) is pretty disposable doesn't
warrant not trying to keep what is valuable. Baby and bathwater here.

(Certainly a lot of published material deserves ephemerality; in the
first place, how do we judge it any better than the publishers; and in
the second place, that's not an argument for ephemerizing it all.)

I think WMcC is absolutely right in citing the Stanford economist (very
possibly Ed Shaw--sounds like him) on the difficulty in changing the academic
culture by changing publishing patterns. Makes it all the more important to
try and to do it well. --pg

Peter Graham psgraham@gandalf.rutgers.edu Rutgers University Libraries
169 College Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08903 (908)445-5908; fax (908)445-5888

Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 14:05:01 EST
From: Marta Steele <Marta_Steele@Pupress.Princeton.Edu>
Subject: transitory/permanent

The notion of permanence in publishing is one of my favorite
subjects/obsessions; not only does a paper/internet dichotomy make
sense, substituting the internet for the strictly transitory, like
stock market reports of the day, etc., but we need a third category,
the "aei" element, which we must preserve for the remote future: the
products of our research that we let die only at the peril of remote
posterity: picture those poor souls having to reconstruct Greek from
nothing but the hundreds of different ways that we transliterate it
into the roman alphabet (ok, that's a slight exaggeration), if that
happens to be the only Greek that remains due to natural forces and
unnatural bellicose forms of destruction of various types. What I'm
trying to say is that we ought to carve into stone, into eternity,
what we have struggled so hard to reconstruct about classical
civilization in even the last 200 years. Think how hard we had to
work; think what they're having to do now to try to decipher what
remains of the Dead Sea Scrolls; look what they had to do to decipher
Linear B. All that is timeless and should be literally preserved via
a medium more durable than (forgive me, this is my livelihood) even
the book. What could that be? How can we transcend future holocausts
and other natural destruction and preserve this category of knowledge
for all time, to avoid future dark ages? I guess we have to turn to
science? I'm sure there are ways, if we agree this is an important
issue and resolve to address it.

Marta Steele
Princeton University Press