17.012 gray literature

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sun May 11 2003 - 03:39:27 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 12.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: John Lupia <jlupia2@yahoo.com> (31)
             Subject: Re: 17.009 gray literature

       [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (44)
             Subject: what's gray?

             Date: Sun, 11 May 2003 08:33:21 +0100
             From: John Lupia <jlupia2@yahoo.com>
             Subject: Re: 17.009 gray literature

    Gray Literature (variant orthography, not exclusively British, "Grey
    Literature"), was probably first coined in the last quarter of the 19th
    century to designate a manuscript copy or pre-print distributed and
    circulated to a select few for peer review of a written work in advance of
    and intended for final and formal publication. This is not identical with
    a blue-line copy, or galley proof since these are terms used by a publisher
    to describe printed materials from signatures prepared for mass production.

    The term "grey paper" first appeared in John Ruskin's description of
    drawings produced by Joseph William Mallard Turner made on artist's drawing
    stock called "grey paper". (See Notes by Mr. Ruskin on his drawings by the
    late J. M. W. Turner, R. A. : exhibited at the Fine art society's
    galleries, 148 New Bond street, in the spring of 1878 (London : Elzevir
    press, 1878): 50) This form of paper was an unbleached stack and was
    produced as a wrapping paper and for artist's drawing. Since "gray
    literature" originally referred to an author's unfinished work it probably
    became an adopted term since it paralleled the artist's sketch that served
    as a preliminary idea in various degrees of refinement that preceded and
    led to a final production. The term "gray literature" has now taken on a
    broader meaning and includes all non-commercially produced literature
    inaccessible to the mass market for acquisition since its original target
    audience was private rather than open to the public forum.

    John N. Lupia, III
    31 Norwich Drive
    Toms River, New Jersey 08757 USA
    Phone: (732) 341-8689
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             Date: Sun, 11 May 2003 08:35:38 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: what's gray?

    While I accept Charles Faulhaber's definition of gray literature in
    Humanist 17.009 in the terms in which it was given, I wonder if it would
    not be helpful to look beyond the immediate institutional classification. I
    would suppose that gray literature does not always coincide with that which
    is "privately published" -- a volume of poetry, say, produced by
    letterpress and given to friends of the poet-printer; a samizdat
    publication; a serious work of scholarship put online by the author because
    he or she cannot get it published commercially. These things, it seems to
    me, differ rather significantly from a research report issued by a
    laboratory so that its preliminary work may be distributed to colleagues.
    In the former case, the work is the final form; it is the thing itself, not
    a preliminary or interim version.

    The problem with the institutional definition, as Charles pointed out, lies
    in the discrepancy between classification and actual importance. If I am
    writing a history of work on DNA, for example, all the interim reports of
    the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and the corresponding material from
    King's College London, plus the material at Caltech and the correspondence
    e.g between Linus Pauling and James Watson, are primary. Indeed, the
    historian typically works (does he or she not?) with "literature" which at
    the time of production was regarded as gray in one sense or another.

    If I have not fallen off my limb, then it follows that our situation with
    regards to research in computing is the same. Take the case of hypertext
    research. Those who are building systems tend to publish non-commercially
    in the form of conference papers, which can be frustratingly difficult to
    get to if you don't go to the right conferences and your institution does
    not pay for the rights of access to the contents of www.acm.org/dl. Even if
    your institution does, the huge amount of stuff you need to plough through
    shows quickly that the attitude of the authors tends to be very different
    from those in the humanities who write for publication. It's gray
    literature one finds -- gray to the authors because, I am guessing, it's
    quite secondary as far as they are concerned to the real work, which is
    manifested in the building of systems. But from the perspective of
    humanities computing, as to the historian, this literature is primary.

    So, I conclude, this topic is very important to us. And I salute Manfred
    Thaller's wit in calling the series he published at the Max Planck Institut
    fuer Geschichte (Goettingen) the "Halbgraue Reihe zur historischen
    Fachinformatik", the "Half-Gray Series on Historical Information
    Technology" http://www.geschichte.mpg.de/deutsch/hgr.html.



    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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