15.460 rationale of e-text

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Mon Jan 21 2002 - 01:37:08 EST

  • Next message: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty : "15.461 mind/body; art & information theory"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 460.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> (62)
             Subject: Re: 15.456 rationale of e-text

       [2] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (15)
             Subject: Re: 15.456 rationale of e-text

       [3] From: Mark Horney <mhorney@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU> (27)
             Subject: Searching by inspection

             Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 06:28:03 +0000
             From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
             Subject: Re: 15.456 rationale of e-text

    Willard and readers:

    At 01:30 AM 1/16/02, Norm Hinton wrote:
    >... I don't
    >use a dictionary just to find out one thing about one word -- some of
    >the most useful things I know about language come from paging through
    >the book looking for the word I want, and I can never put a good
    >dictionary down without browsing both in the vicinity and by flipping
    >pages at random.
    >Apparently the folks who programmed the AHD don't get it. I can look up
    >a word and get the info --even the I-E material. But that's all.

    Or they do get it, and are withholding that particular functionality from
    the electronic product in order to maintain the distinctive value,
    desirability and salability of the paper resource. :->

    Maybe I'm giving them too much credit; but on the other hand I can imagine
    several ways -- albeit scholar-intensive to produce -- to design electronic
    interfaces that work, if not to emulate the tactile pleasures of browsing
    the bound volume, at least the fun and potential serendipity of it. Even
    some ways that would give you broader range for exploration than the serial
    alphabetic presentation of the book. This is not to take issue with the
    basic point Norm makes -- I too love dipping into my AHD, as I do digging
    in the paper OED, and don't foresee any other medium giving me the same
    thing -- but just to say it's slippery.


    >In fact, search capabilities are the ONLY reason I can imagine for
    >having any book in electronic form.....

    This may be a bit extreme. We are still at the point where we are, for the
    most part, imitating what we do with print in our electronic efforts --
    read, peruse, look up. The capabilities of electronic interfaces to do new
    things, or make lighter work of old things, are still largely unexplored
    (the HyperActiveText of the web, with all its strengths and weaknesses,
    would be the exception that proves this rule). The early days of print are
    possibly a useful analogy. Only when print stopped trying to imitate
    manuscript, and started taking advantage of what print could do that
    manuscripts could not (for example, leveraging mass production to provide
    standard referencing schemes to commonly-cited authors like Plato and
    Aristotle), did the technology's true capabilities and significance begin
    to emerge.

    But noticing the virtue of a feature that expresses, particularly strongly,
    the strengths of the codex form, should not blind us to the possibilities
    of electronic media when doing their own thing -- some of which,
    paper-based media do relatively poorly, if at all. As an example, I submit
    for your attention an *early* prototype of a study resource I've been
    working on. It's at


    and has been tested in IE5 and NN 6 (it relies on W3C DOM-compliant
    scripting, available only in late browsers). Apologies also for the awful
    translation: a friendly native speaker has promised to help me with the
    German; this is very preliminary. (But you don't need to know German to
    understand what I'm doing here.)

    But of course, such a creature may not be a "book".


    Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez@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

             Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 06:28:36 +0000
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: 15.456 rationale of e-text


    The only reason?

    > In fact, search capabilities are the ONLY reason I can imagine for
    > having any book in electronic form.....

    What about the ease of communicating with students and colleagues (nice to
    be able to copy and paste rather than rekey a citation)?

    What about the ability to access the data through voice-synthesis or
    reformatting presentation for big fonts?

    What about being able to compute for example run a simple count (which of
    course depends upon search capabilities)?

    BTW, I've had fun doing a search on Google for "hinton only humanist"
    which for me is the equivalent of a book browse :)

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    per Interactivity ad Virtuality via Textuality

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 06:32:19 +0000 From: Mark Horney <mhorney@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU> Subject: Searching by inspection

    This distinction between "browsing" around, what I would call "searching by inspection" and the "keyword" searching available in computer systems is important to keep in mind when designing media. The technology of printed books allows for and perhaps facilitates inspection. Keyword searching is rather more difficult, with nothing more than the index and the table of contents to assist readers. Computer systems, especially those that allow full boolean searching are great at the keyword seaching but often terrible at inspection, especially if it's web pages you're searching and you have a slow internet connection. Hypertext designers must remember keyword searching is fine IF YOU KNOW WHAT KEYWORDS TO LOOK FOR. For the rest of us, they must also design features that faciliate browsing.

    It is my hypothesis that electonic books will become the most useful in situations where one is "studying" a book, as opposed to "reading" a book. I think the activities one engages in during study can be substantially assisted by functions that can be built into an electronic edition, functions that are often difficult to manage in paper editions. For just reading however, I agree, I don't yet think there's much value added in the electronic form.

    Mark Horney

    Mark Horney, Ph.D. Center for Advanced Technology in Education University of Oregon 1244 Walnut St Eugene, Oregon 97403 (o) 541/346-2679 FAX: 541/346-6226 mhorney@oregon.uoregon.edu Web de Anza: http://anza.uoregon.edu The Intersect Digital Library: http://intersect.uoregon.edu

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