Saturday, July 25, 2020

Internet As Chandelier

—————————-ORIGINAL MESSAGE————————————— Hart undoubtedly saw academia as a series of dark brown dream shapes, disorganized, nightmarish, each with its set of rules for nearly everything: style of writing, footnoting, limited subject matter, and each with little reference to each other.
————————————-REPLY————————————————— What he wanted to see was knowledge in the form of a chandelier, with each subject area powered by the full intensity of the flow of information, and each sending sparks of light to other areas, which would then incorporate and reflect them to others, a never ending flexion and reflection, an illumination of the mind, soul and heart of Wo/Mankind as could not be rivalled by a diamond of the brightest and purest clarity.
Instead, he saw petty feudal tyrants, living in dark poorly lit, poorly heated, well defended castles: living on a limited diet, a diet of old food, stored away for long periods of time, salted or pickled or rotted or fermented. Light from the outside isn't allowed in, for with it could come the spears and arrows of life and the purpose of the castle was to keep the noble life in, and all other forms of life out. Thus the nobility would continue a program of inbreeding which would inevitably be outclassed by an entirely random reflexion of the world's gene pool.
A chandelier sends light in every direction, light of all colors and intensities. No matter where you stand, there are sparkles, some of which are aimed at you, and you alone, some of which are also seen by others: yet, there is no spot of darkness, neither are there spots of overwhelming intensity, as one might expect a sparkling source of lights to give off. Instead, the area is an evenly lit paradise, with direct and indirect light for all, and at least a few sparkles for everyone, some of which arrive, pass and stand still as we watch.
But the system is designed to eliminate sparkles, reflections or any but the most general lighting. Scholars are encouraged to a style and location of writing which guarantee that 99 and 44 one hundredths of the people who read their work will be colleagues, already a part of that inbred nobility of their fields.
We are already aware that most of our great innovations are made from leaps from field to field, that the great thinkers apply an item here in this field which was gleaned from that field: thus are created the leaps which create new fields which widen fields of human endeavor in general.
Yet, our petty nobles, cased away in their casements, encased in their tradition, always reject the founding of these new fields, fearing their own fields can only be dimmed by comparison. This is true, but only by their own self-design. If their field were open to light from the outside, then the new field would be part of their field, but by walling up the space around themselves, a once new and shining group of enterprising revolutionaries could only condemn themselves to awaiting the ravages of time, tarnish and ignorance as they become ignorant of the outside world while the outside world becomes ignorant of them.
So, I plead with you, for your sake, my sake, for everyone's, to open windows in your mind, in your field, in your writing and in your thinking; to let illumination both in and out, to come from underneath and from behind the bastions of your defenses, and to embrace the light and the air, to see and to breathe, to be seen and to be breathed by the rest of Wo/Mankind.
Let your light reflect and be reflected by the other jewels in a crown of achievement more radiant than anything we have ever had the chance to see or to be before. Join the world!
A Re-Visitation to the Chandelier by Michael S. Hart
Every so often I get a note from a scholar with questions and comments about the Project Gutenberg Edition of this or that. Most of the time this appears to be either idle speculation— since there is never any further feedback about passages this or that edition does better in the eye of particular scholars or the feedback is of the "holier than thou" variety in which the scholar claims to have found errors in our edition, which the scholar then refuses to enumerate.
As for the first, there can certainly be little interest in a note that appears, even after follow-up queries, of that idle brand of inquiry.
As to the second, we are always glad to receive a correction, that is one of the great powers of etext, that corrections be made easily and quickly when compared to paper editions, with the corrections being made available to those who already had the previous editions, at no extra charge.
However, when someone is an expert scholar in a field they do have a certain responsibility to have their inquiries be some reasonable variety, with a reasonable input, in order to have a reasonable output. To complain that there is a problem w/o pointing out the problem has a rich and powerful vocabulary I do not feel is appropriate for this occasion. We have put an entirely out-of-proportion cash reward on these errors at one time or another and still have not received any indications a scholar has actually ever found them, which would not be more difficult than finding errors in any other etexts, especially ones not claiming an beginning accuracy of only 99.9%.
However, if these corrections WERE forthcoming, then the 99.9 would soon approach 99.95, which is the reference error level referred to several times in the Library of Congress Workshop on Electronic Text Proceedings.
On the other hand, just as the Project Gutenberg's efficiency would drop dramatically if we insisted our first edition of a book were over 99.5% accurate, so too, should efficiency drop dramatically if we were ever to involve ourselves in any type of discussion resembling "How many angels can dance on a pin- head." The fact is, that our editions are NOT targeted to an audience specifically interested in whether Shakespeare would have said:
"To be or not to be"
"To be, or not to be"
"To be; or not to be"
"To be: or not to be"
"To be—or not to be"
This kind of conversation is and should be limited to the few dozen to few hundred scholars who are properly interested. A book designed for access by hundreds of millions cannot spend that amount of time on an issue that is of minimal relevance, at least minimal to 99.9% of the potential readers. However, we DO intend to distribute a wide variety of Shakespeare, and the contributions of such scholars would be much appreciated, were it ever given, just as we have released several editions of the Bible, Paradise Lost and even Aesop's Fables.
In the end, when we have 30 different editions of Shakespeare on line simulateously, this will probably not even be worthy, as it hardly is today, of a footnote. . .I only answer out of respect for the process of creating these editions as soon as possible, to improve the literacy and education of the masses as soon as possible.
For those who would prefer to see that literacy and education continue to wallow in the mire, I can only say that a silence on your part creates its just reward. Your expertise dies an awful death when it is smothered by hiding your light under a bushel, as someone whom is celebrated today once said:
Matthew 5:15
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on
candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Mark 4:21
And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a
or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
Luke 8:16 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.
Luke 11:33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.

Source: Project Gutenberg's A Brief History of the Internet, by Michael Hart

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