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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: May ::
A Problem of Access
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0301  Monday, 19 May 2008

[1] 	From:	David Evett <
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	Date:	Friday, 16 May 2008 13:15:55 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

[2] 	From:	C S Lim <
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	Date:	Saturday, 17 May 2008 09:23:42 +0800
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

[3] 	From:	Martin Mueller <
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	Date:	Friday, 16 May 2008 21:34:24 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

[4] 	From:	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date:	Saturday, 17 May 2008 13:45:18 +0100
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

[5] 	From:	John Drakakis <
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	Date:	Monday, 19 May 2008 17:00:55 +0100
	Subj:	RE: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		David Evett <
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Date:		Friday, 16 May 2008 13:15:55 -0400
Subject: 19.0298 A Problem of Access
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

David Lindley's question about the durability of electronic text is 
hardly "naive"; there's stuff in the box of 5 1/4" floppy disks on top 
if tallest bookcase that I would like to be able to get at but could now 
only do so at very considerable expense. And it's only a dozen years 
old. No doubt many capable people in publishing and library work and 
computer design are aware of the problem and working on it, but in the 
context we need to add to the traditional enemies of our goods, moth and 
rust, new ones that include  planned obsolescence and maybe the 
possibility that the great-great-grandmother of all solar flares will 
generate an electro-magnetic storm big enough to corrupt every hard 
drive on the planet.

Apocalyptically,
David Evett

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		C S Lim <
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Date:		Saturday, 17 May 2008 09:23:42 +0800
Subject: 19.0298 A Problem of Access
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

Surely more sophisticated technology or software will be able to read 
material even in obsolete forms in text versions at least. One worries 
about one's own files stored in privately kept media which might 
eventually be inaccessible or easily accessible because technology has 
moved on. And, of course, CDs and the rest of it are subject to decay, alas.

C S Lim

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Martin Mueller <
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Date:		Friday, 16 May 2008 21:34:24 -0500
Subject: 19.0298 A Problem of Access
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

This is not a naive question at all. We owe much of the heritage of 
print literature to the fact that prior to some point in the 1800s the 
only kind of paper people knew how to make was a material that under 
ordinary conditions would last for a century. Had they known how to make 
cheap paper with lots of acid, much would have been lost . . .

Paper isn't intrinsically a long-term material. Multiple copies help, 
and a digital preservation system is called LOCKSS, an acronym for lots 
of copies keep stuff safe.

But preservation is in the long run a social rather than technical 
matter. It is probably the case that modern librarians, at least in 
research environments, worry more systematically about long-term 
preservation than they did in earlier ages. But they had better keep 
worrying.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Gabriel Egan <
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Date:		Saturday, 17 May 2008 13:45:18 +0100
Subject: 19.0298 A Problem of Access
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

David Lindley asks:

 >. . .  how far can one guarantee the future of articles/books etc.
 >'published' solely in electronic form?

It's a fair question, but applies equally to the print media.  We tend 
to assume that print endures, but it is worth considering how that 
longevity has come about. Certainly, the print media are inherently more 
stable than the electronic/magnetic media, although one might argue that 
the optical media-holes punched into metal disks-have the advantages of 
digital without the disadvantages of electro-magnetism.

But, aside from the occasional disasters of acidic paper and fires, the 
question isn't really one of form but of access. Only with the 
systematic collection of printed materials in libraries came the kind of 
permanence than we habitually associate with the print media. That is, 
we rely on the principle that if one visits a sufficiently comprehensive 
library, or can have material fetched from one, everything ever printed 
is available to us.

We have to ask why this effort to conserve knowledge in printed form 
came about. It is hard to see it being done for the benefit of arts and 
humanities scholars, and my suspicion is that we have only really 
hitched a ride on the shirt-tails of the science and technology 
disciplines. When printed matter was the only way to conserve knowledge, 
there were good economic reasons to organize large repositories 
(libraries), and if the economically useful material was to be conserved 
why not save everything?

Without the ongoing effort at systematizing the storage of the 
materials, libraries would be no more useful than badly-run used book 
stores. The digital media need organization too, but of different kinds. 
Books are not self-descriptive, so the creation of indices (catalogues 
to collections) takes a lot of work. But books don't take much 
preservation: kept at the right temperature and humidity, they will 
remain readable for hundreds of years. Digital media are, to a 
significant degree, self-descriptive, in the sense that without any 
additional work they can be interrogated to see if particular notions 
(expressed by key words) are present in them.  But they don't 'keep' if 
left unexamined: they are best recopied to new media and new formats 
periodically.

Books and digital media both require extensive human attention if they 
are to be useful to readers. The attention is simply different in each 
case.  We ought not to assume that either will get that attention simply 
because WE want to preserve knowledge. If those who pay for knowledge 
preservation cease to see good uses for it, neither print nor digital 
media may endure.

Gabriel Egan

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John Drakakis <
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Date:		Monday, 19 May 2008 17:00:55 +0100
Subject: 19.0298 A Problem of Access
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.0298 A Problem of Access

The answer is, David, that you can't. BUT also given the activities of 
Directors of Information Services (aka librarians) these days, you can't 
even guarantee the survival rates of books either. Things ought to be 
different, but the bean counters are now in charge!

Cheers,
John Drakakis

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