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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: January ::
Important Changes to the World Shakespeare
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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0065  Monday, 12 January 2004

[1]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Jan 2004 08:02:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0057 Important Changes to the World Shakespeare
Bibliography

[2]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Jan 2004 17:55:58 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0057 Important Changes to the World Shakespeare
Bibliography


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Jan 2004 08:02:56 -0500
Subject: 15.0057 Important Changes to the World Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0057 Important Changes to the World Shakespeare
Bibliography

I'd like to add my support to Martin Green's protest against reducing
the World Shakespeare Bibliography to electronic-only format (and
access).  For one thing, print on paper is more friendly to the physical
nature of a human reader, and was designed with the eyes in mind.
Computer terminals are a physical strain on the eyes at least, and may
be unhealthy in the long run.  Acknowledging the "extraordinary power"
of computer technology  praised by Gabriel Egan, it's not a panacea, nor
a bride for all markets.

Books can be and are shared, passed around, annotated by their readers,
put aside next to other material that may be related only in the mind of
a particular reader, etc.  They build community, of a sort.  I find
computers -- as accesses to source materials -- isolating rather than
collegial, but perhaps that's just a rare idiosyncrasy on my part.  Of
course computer data bases have an enormous range of valuable uses, and
make rare books available across the world.  But the rare books were not
produced in limited number because computer access was preferable and
desired by readers, the computers are just making the best of a
difficult and undesirable situation.

Again, the world of computers is not all that reliable, nor secure and
stable.  I don't see ideologist hackers censoring the contents of the
World Shakespeare Bibliography (maybe I should), but there are long term
drawbacks and limitations to putting all one's eggs into a single
basket, and each of us can probably make up a quick list of favorite
disasters.

Finally, I find the rush to this modern, gee-whiz technological style of
research offensively elitist.  There are places where computer-access is
restricted, and if publishers abandon book publishing, there won't even
be copies of current materials to hand around.  In a world where wealth
is poorly distributed and education is being starved in many places, who
exactly is the "we" who will be on-line with our laptops whenever it is
convenient?  Moreover, knowledge is a threat in many places to the
holders of power and, with centralization of access (okay, Shakespeare
studies may be down on the list of worrisome activities) the Beast will
have fewer heads to cut off (exactly the opposite, I'm sure, of what its
proponents envision, what with the new delights of IM still being
discovered, along with the easy formation of world-wide interest groups
that is now catching the attention of so many, politicians especially).
  But look at China now, think of other authoritarian states throughout
the world, and remember the importance of samizdat in the darker days of
the USSR.  And in fact, the freedom to perform Shakespeare's plays was
an important barometer of liberalization or restrain in the old Iron
Curtain days.  It may be objected that my preference to printed books is
even more elitist for approximately the same reasons I deplore the
switch to data-base access.  But the real issue is not which is better,
it's whether to abandon the good entirely for the just-possibly-better.

Tony Burton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Jan 2004 17:55:58 -0000
Subject: 15.0057 Important Changes to the World Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0057 Important Changes to the World Shakespeare
Bibliography

Gabriel Egan writes, in praise of electronic media:

 >Another example: with Literature Online, one can
 >find every example of a particular word (say, the verb 'to
 >place') in playtext stage directions across hundreds of
 >years.

Well, we've been round this before, but Literature Online is
emphatically NOT a reliable scholarly resource. The keyed texts contain
many errors, or are derived from imperfect editions; there are, I am
told, a significant number of misattributions; and I've spoken before
about the inadequacy of the search engine. No statistics based on LION
are likely to be accurate. This isn't to deny that it is an invaluable
starting-point, but one should always check the text, and assume that in
dealing with old-spelling texts, one is almost certain to miss things
that a search should have found.

It's proving to be the same with EEBO, to which my university has just
subscribed. My colleague Martin Butler and I have already encountered
two texts where openings have been missed out (one presumes in the
digitisation process), and the same mechanical failure, one assumes,
accounts for the clipping of some texts, and the unreadability of some
words in tightly-bound margins (the latter seeming to be a more frequent
fault in EEBO than in the microfilm series from which it derives).

The same is also true of electronic library catalogues. Many of us, I'm
sure, have had the frustrating experience of using the British Library
electronic catalogue to find a book one knows is there, only for it not
to appear. When actually in the library I often find it quicker to use
the printed catalogue than the electronic.

Yes, of course, there are many sorts of information which electronic
media make available in ways that print cannot match - and I certainly
would not now want to be without LION or EEBO - but they are much less
reliable than they can appear to be.

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