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DIGITALCLASSICIST  August 2005

DIGITALCLASSICIST August 2005

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Subject:

Re: Digital classicist wiki

From:

Dan O'Donnell <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The Digital Classicist List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 8 Aug 2005 07:59:20 -0600

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Leaving aside Gabriel's Wiki questions for the moment, let me defend why I
think we should consider joining forces:

First of all, I have come to accept the argument that the disciplinary
nature of the DM and DC model is in fact an essential feature. This wasn't
an essential feature at the time we set up and asked for funding, more an
accident of who happened to be on the board. Since then, however, I've
come to realise that the disciplinary nature is actually very comforting
to many participants. It is also a way of maintaining prestige, in the
sense that the body of endorsing experts is more easily identifiable in
smaller disciplinary divisions.

This explains why there should be separate mailing lists and probably why
the DM journal should continue as an officially *medievalist* journal
rather than a pre-print journal (though I encourage classicists to
consider submitting articles to us). In the case of the Wiki, though, I
think the disciplinary focus certainly works against success. The point of
the DM wiki (at any rate) is to build up a critical mass of tips, project
reports, abstracts, etc. that participants can search in order to discover
unexpected colleagues. What we are hoping will happen in the end with the
wiki is that a user who decides to begin say a database on medieval coins
will type in key terms into the wiki ('MySQL' 'database' 'searching'
'corpus') and discover projects that are doing similar things that the
user would not have thought of on their own: a linguistic corpus, perhaps,
or some kind textual database. In other words, the point of the DM wiki is
to build a database that can be searched against the grain by asking
people simply to describe what they are doing. The underlying premise is
that we tend to thin our closest colleagues are in our subject
disciplines, whereas in fact, in digital work at least, they are actually
people using the same technology regardless of their official 'field'.

Given this, the disciplinary focus of DM and DC are unnecessarily
limiting. While there is no reason why one can't run 'distinct'
disciplinary wikis within a single instance of wiki software (in media
wiki you can create a category 'medievalist' or 'classicist' for example)
there is little advantage to running separate wikis since the whole point
is to discover technical commonalities that one might not otherwise think
of using disciplinary blinders. My own view is that the crucial thing in
such cases is bulk: we want lots of relevant cases in order to increase
the likelihood that search words will pull in unexpected results. Since
the underlying technology is extremely similar, and since the raw material
has much in common, I fail to see what is gained by separating what is in
essence as single common pool of information. The question 'what do
Anglo-Saxonists want in a 3-D edition of the Ruthwell Cross' is a question
for a disciplinary mailing list; the question 'who else is making 3-D
images of 17 foot high stone monuments and what is involved in doing so?'
is a larger and more cross disciplinary. You answer the first by asking a
disciplinary list such as DM or ANSAXNET; you answer the second by
searching a DM/DC/Digital Renaissance wiki (if there is such a thing).

My two cents, anyway.

-d


-- 
Daniel Paul O'Donnell
Associate Professor of English
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4
Tel. +1 (403) 329-2377
Fax. +1 (403) 382-7191

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