next up previous
Next: We can provide ... Up: J. C. Nyíri: The Previous: I recommend a threefold

Commenting on Laci Turi's comments ...

Commenting on Laci Turi's comments (``Laci'' being the colloquial form of `` László'' in Hungarian), I would like to remark, first, that I find the concept of analogical knowledge to be quite illuminating here. After all, this concept played an eminent role in European medieval philosophy, a philosophy of manuscript culture and intertextuality; it might well play such a role again in the philosophy of a post-typographical age.

Secondly: I think what Laci says about the new conditions in archiving not being really new is only partly convincing. Here I would still side with Margaret Hedstrom. As she has so admirably put it: ``Many current institutional practices undermine retention, preservation, and secondary use of electronic records ... Even the word archive has lost much of its traditional meaning and associations. In the vernacular of data processing professionals, `archive' means to store data off-line. A `permanent medium' is one that cannot be erased or altered even if it only lasts a few years. These new definitions do not incorporate any of the concepts that archivists normally associate with the term ``archive;'' to understand information in its context, to identify what is valuable, or to retain records and make them accessible as long as they have value. ... some archivists are beginning to question whether fundamental archival practices, such as provenance and original order, are applicable to the administration of electronic records. The concepts of original order and provenance derive from the basic archival principle ... that much of the meaning and value of records derives from knowledge of the context in which the records were created. Knowledge of the context of creation in turn can be ascertained by examining records in their original order and by studying the administrative history, organizational structure, and functions of organizations and the life history ... of individuals.'' However, ``[e]xcept for the simplest data file structures, the physical ordering of data is controlled by software and is distinct from its logical order''.gif

Thirdly, I agree that not just historical consciousness, but, in part, historical knowledge, too, could be submerged in the ocean of digitalized texts. The loss of historical consciousness, as I suggested in my target paper, might in the end not be a loss at all. But of course we would not want to lose sight of relevant historical facts. Here I see dangers on at least three levels. At the first level we have to realize that digitalized libraries do indeed have a crippling effect on conventional humanities studies. Online public access catalogues tend to focus on recent material, both for monographs and serial titles. However, as has been repeatedly pointed out, in the humanities new developments had always been based upon a random survey of the entire corpus of the literature rather than upon a small selection of recent contributions.gif At a second level, there is a real danger that virtual library holdings - with magnetic and optical storage media relatively unenduring, and hardware and software rapidly becoming obsolete - might in a relatively short time become irretrievable, or else prohibitively expensive to preserve.gif Here the programme of the new Bibliotheque Nationale de France certainly merits attention. The BNF, to be in full operation by 1998, is meant to be both a giant physical library, and a digital on-line library. It is meant, as two of its spiritual architects put it, to ``consummate the marriage of the universe of Gutenberg with that of McLuhan. ...it will be open, democratic, innovative, but all of those things within a perspective ensuring the greatest respect for the past.''gif And at a third level there is the danger Laci points out: that even knowledge that is preserved digitally might get lost, possibly for ever, if the electronic search mechanisms employed do not happen to be appropriate ones. Lastly, I agree that in the new communication media western science necessarily loses its abstract character. The humanities of the future will not have a Platonistic outlook - and the same holds, I believe, for the science of the future.

After May 20, 1996, the discussion came to a standstill. I had to wait until November 7 to receive another message. It came from Gergely Kovesd, a student of mine at the University of Budapest, a psychology and mathematics major. I am here reproducing his comments on interactivity and the World Wide Web:


next up previous
Next: We can provide ... Up: J. C. Nyíri: The Previous: I recommend a threefold

hh
Fri Jul 25 22:00:35 MEST 1997