When discussing the issue of availability of books and journals in humanities I argues, that this is a slightly overlooked problem, as it does not occur in well funded Western universities. I continued my argument: “However for a researcher in poorer countries, this usually means that he has no access to most of the relevant publications” which I pointed out, is a major problem in “area studies, non-european history and anthropology.” However I believe now that this focus is not the central aspect of the problem. I would still argue that low availability of books and journals in the universities of the developing world is a central issue, but there is something even more central.
This post is part of a series. Please also check out the other posts:
Part 1: What is the Web 2.0
Part 2: The challenge
Part 3: Inverse footnotes
Part 4: The exculpation of Wikis
Part 5: Information Overload
Moving humanities into the future is obviously not an idea I invented. To my disappointment, the notion of “humanities 2.0″ is not of my sole brain child either. Obviously there is a number of people out there who discuss and think about similar topics. Before linking to them however I wanted to create a base first of what will be the topic on my own blog. I think with five posts I have created this base and will now give a first and superficial look at what I found thanks to Google.
Let us assume for now that availability is not a problem – an issue I have not addressed yet. Let us also assume that a part of the ideas sketched in the previous posts have come true. That means that we have an enormous amount of information available. In result we might actually look back at the good old days, when we did not have that much information. OK. To be fair. If availability and accessibility of knowledge as well as the possibility that knowledge is compiled and made available are no problems, this would save us an enormous amount of time. Time we could invest in reading and evaluating more information. However I assume that the amount of information we would gain would outstrip the amount of additional time by far. Therefore relevance becomes a central issue. Solving the relevance issue might be the most difficult of all and I can only present some very vague ideas on where possibilities could be. I think we have to address the question of relevance by two sides. On one side is the question of what information you can put into a system to give you a better evaluation of relevance. On the other side is which systems to evaluate relevance could be available. The two questions as I will show later are in a certain way interlinked. I will look at the second question first, because this where my Web 2.0 analogy might work to a certain degree. The first question implies a rather a user / client side software solution, which I will therefore look at later.
Wikipedia is most probably the most hated web site on the higher levels of most universities. Therefore proposing the use of Wikis in humanities will not make me very popular, I assume. Currently most universities are actively discouraging the use of Wikipedia, but of course students do it anyway. They quote Wikipedia or even worse they just copy texts from Wikipedia without quoting them properly. However I believe that the problem here is more that students are told not to use Wikipedia. Then they find out that it can be helpful and therefore they ignore all other rules about Wikipedia as well. I am convinced that if we are frank about the strengths of Wikipedia students will also be more likely to accept the weaknesses. But now I digress.
Literature in humanities and blogs have one thing in common: they both like to quote and reference excessively. However blogs have the advantage of not being stuck on paper. They are not static. They can change over time. Blogs haven used this to introduce the trackback, which has most probably been central in the rise of the blogosphere, as the collectivity of all blogs is called. The trackback is a simple method which works basically like an inverse footnote. While a footnote is showing what the author is basing his argument on the trackback shows you who is basing his arguments on this text.
This post is part of a series. Please also check out the first part What is the Web 2.0.
Now, while in this post I will not go into the details why the humanities can learn from the Web 2.0, let me discuss a number of central problems of humanities today. The key problems of humanities as I see it are regarding availability of knowledge, accessibility of knowledge and the probability that knowledge is made available at all.
Today I will start what will become a series: Humanities 2.0. I am a vivid follower of what has happened in the internet in the recent years. And more than one time I have stumbled over ideas which I believe could be successfully applied in humanities. For those who have not followed the internet as closely, in my first post I will have to quickly recapitulate what happened.