The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1733  Thursday, 16 September 2004

From:           Frank Whigham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 15 Sep 2004 10:46:16 -0500
Subject:        Long Posts & Lists

I'd like to make a plea that listmembers work harder to keep their posts
down to a normal size. These huge agons are tiring to sort through in
search of the rich variety that makes this list so good, even when
they're not tiring in their own right. If the material is long enough to
warrant many screens, it would be better to write it up properly, as a
preliminary article, and ask Hardy to post it in the webspace for
material for review, and those who wish can read it there.

There's a media-transformation pattern arising here. A list such as this
one allows writers to bypass the quality-control teeth of peer review
associated with publication, and (to use the computer-marketing term)
"push" their ideas to their target recipients without intervening
filters (aside from moderator interventions, and Hardy is committed to a
free-speech model). Readers mostly have to go to the library to read us
in actual print, but if we can force them to find our ideas on their own
computers, we can bypass their own inaction or disinterest, and make
them either read us or take active steps (always described as "easy") to
delete us. This version usually gets posed as a positive ("ease of
access": here, to "scholarship"), but it seems to me clearly similar in
its negative side to spamming. Most of us want less ease of access to
illegal financial transfers and organ enlargement. So too with (for me)
huge SHAKSPER posts. One can always say, "well, just delete it," but the
spam parallel suggests that it can be more invasive than that. The
spammers hate the idea of our having access to a "do not call" response,
but who cares?

It depends, I guess, on what we think this list, and lists, are for.
There are many answers. I don't myself think they're useful for readings
of entire plays, which ought to take article form. Nor do I generally
find vendetta or vita comparison or idees fixes useful. Some of these
latter are unavoidable, and we all know the demon that tempts one to
stabbing reply. When these combine, it's pretty unsightly. At least
posts could be much shorter than some have been lately. Questions about
"the meaning of Hamlet," for instance, strike me as inappropriate to a
scholarly list, though of course all questions about Hamlet will end up
engaging the macro version at some point. *Starting* there, beginning by
claiming you have it, suggests to me that you ought to write it up and
send it out and see if it will fly, not pelt hundreds with it hoping
that three will get back to you.

These are complex questions, and we'll all feel various things about
them. However, whatever the intellectual and media-form issues are, I'm
quite sure it takes Hardy a long time to format and prepare them (never
mind reading them). We are all presuming on his non-tireless labors, and
I'd hate to wear him down for the sake of a small portion of the
readership. Of course, perhaps most folks are more engaged with the
allegorical and spiritual jousts than I am. That would be the only
excuse for making him do the work, and we're pushing our luck when it's
not the case. As the business folks say, you spend 90% of your time
managing 10% of the people. When he asks us to count to ten (as he has
repeatedly), we should count to twenty. All of us. We don't have a right
to his labors; they're a privilege, and we abuse it too often. Unlike
department chairs, he is not doomed for a certain term to walk the
night. He can decide anytime that the list is too much trouble. Let's
please not tempt him overmuch.

Sorry for the long post.

Frank Whigham

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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