21.110 ideal readers for a database?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 06:47:40 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 110.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 06:43:20 +0100
         From: Neven Jovanovic <neven.jovanovic_at_ffzg.hr>
         Subject: Ideal readers for a database?

Dear all,

after some experience with databases --- corpora, to be more precise ---
of ancient Greek and Latin (and Neolatin) texts, a question occurs. What
kind of an "ideal reader" (or "ideal user") did the designers of those
databases / corpora have in mind? For whom are those databases designed?
What is very easy to do with them --- and what is quite uncomfortably
difficult to achieve?

Greek and Latin corpora that I know make it very easy to find occurrences
of words, and (therefore) verbal similarities between texts. On the other
hand, it is difficult to create one's own subcorpora there; it is not
quite simple to search writers just from one period (i. e.
synchronically), or from just one genre. It requires, also, special skill
to follow ideas, not words. It is difficult to annotate a text, to mark
interesting places (you have to go outside the database for this). It is
practically impossible to add other texts to databases. It is impossible
to consult different readings (apparatus criticus) of a text.

There is another kind of corpus --- the Perseus --- which makes it very
easy to study the text as a student, providing access to the dictionary,
translations, lexica (kind of "school" corpus). But this corpus is
difficult to search (or research) as a corpus, as a collection of texts;
and genres and periods are accessible with difficulty here as well.

What are your experiences with databases / corpora in your fields of
expertise? For whom do these databases / corpora seem to be written /
designed? What do they enable you to do --- and what do they, excuse the
pun, disable?

Neven Jovanovic
Zagreb, Croatia
Received on Wed Jun 20 2007 - 02:12:13 EDT

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