14.0073 a thought-experiment

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 06:59:53 CUT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 73.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000 07:56:46 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: a thought-experiment

    I'd like to ask if those members of Humanist with some experience of both
    computing and commentaries, glossaries and related scholarly tools would
    help me out by conducting a thought experiment and publishing the results
    to Humanist.

    So, here's the experiment. Suppose that you could materialise an ideal
    commentary for whatever text or texts are central to your intellectual
    life. What would it be like? Constrain your imagination not by what our
    computing tools presently do, and what ancillary materials currently exist
    in electronic form, but exclude magic as well as fantasies, such as in Star
    Trek. (So, no manuscript replicators, please, no beaming up the entire mss
    collection of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin!) Concentrate, if you will,
    not so much on what our gizmos can do, rather on those aspects of the
    commentary form that in your use or writing of commentaries have frustrated
    some scholarly impulse.

    One thing this thought-experiment implies is that you start with an idea of
    what a commentary is, i.e. what defines the genre. Not a simple question,
    because the commentary form is radically contingent on its varying social
    and cultural context -- to a greater degree than many of us realise. (For
    those who are interested, see Glenn Most, ed., Commentaries -- Kommentare,
    Goettingen, 1999.) So it would be helpful if you'd say what you think a
    commentary is, and then go on to question how its ontology might be altered
    in the electronic media. Again, though, please focus your remarks on what
    you might want or can see others wanting rather than just the untrammelled
    possibilities offered e.g. by hypertext/hypermedia.

    Which is to say, imagine the lineaments of satisfied desire for the
    commentary and tell us what you see.

    Many thanks.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)20 7848 2784 fax: +44 (0)20 7848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratias agere

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