Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wait, wait, don't tell me

Two colleagues recently forwarded me a pair of links they thought I would find interesting.  One was an MLA job listing for an assistant professor "in American or British literature, 16th-20th century, with interest in the problematic of digital humanities".  It included the specification, "Some familiarity with MSWord expected."  The other was for a new journal called Digital Philology.   The author's guidelines include the invitation, "Digital Philology is welcoming submissions for its 2013 open issue. Inquiries and submissions (as a Word document attachment) should be sent to" ...

I actually had to read each of these twice to realize that one was intended as a parody, and the other is apparently intended seriously.  In the spirit of the news quiz on NPR's "Wait, wait, don't tell me," you decide: which one is the parody?

- a job for assistant professor asking for familiarity with MS Word
- a new journal Digital Philology soliciting submissions as emails with attached Word document

If you are unable to tell, the links lead to the full listings on the original web pages, where you'll find further clues.

Welcome to the world of digital humanities and digital philology in 2012.

Monday, October 8, 2012


I recently heard a radio interview with Timothy Messer-Kruse, describing his experience editing the wikipedia article on the Haymarket trial.    (He had earlier described the same experience in the Chronicle of Higher Education, online here.)

The striking point is that his edits on wikipedia were repeatedly reverted because they were based on and supported by primary evidence.  Wikipedia is, by design, intended to reflect consensus opinions as reflected in secondary publications.  This is a horrible inversion of the way history should be studied and presented — one that wikipedia shares with encyclopedias in general, including distinguished specialized encyclopedias like the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

While I don't like encyclopedias, I love the crowd-sourced part of wikipedia.   So what if we created a "wikicite" for classical studies?  Imagine a wiki where only primary sources were allowed:  no reference to any kind of secondary publications permitted.  You are  of course welcome to read them on your own time, and maybe even learn something from them, but to post to wikicite, you would actually have to work back to the primary sources, and confront evidence you could cite.

That would be revolutionary.