Monday, February 07, 2005

Some interesting observations of medium dynamics from an article on EAD (Electronic Archival Description).

DeRose, Stephen J. "Navigation, Access, and Control Using Structured Information." The American Archivist 60.3 (Summer 1997): 298-309:

On reproducing form vs. making structure of content explicit (paraphrased rather than quoted):

A "page" is a unit of structure that has meaning in typographic contexts -- we can publish any number of books with the same exact pagination. If we change the size or width of a page, however, pagination will likely be off. Therefore pages are not a structural unit of literature but of typography (302).

And now a quote from the above article:

"Many proposals have been made to utilize only the notion of pages in the electronic world. The most naive form my be 'Just scan everything in LC [Library of Congress] and drop it on the net.' A few years ago one heard the same theory, but suggesting optical disk jukeboxes, and before that, microfilm. Such approaches, even ignoring obvious feasibility problems, would not truly achieve the benefits expected of a new medium. Unstructured data forms such as the bitmap are merely new kinds of papyrus on which to make copies: highly useful but purely a quantitative, incremental change. This path can never lead to the new world of navigable, accessible information space that we hope to attain. It carries over most weaknesses of the paper medium, while failing to retain paper's compensating strengths"
     "This is because a scanned image does not contain explicit structural information that can be used to support computer processing that could add value. For example, one could build an 'electronic catalog' by simply scanning three by five cards and then saving the bitmaps. Such a catalog could be 'on-line' and would have the advantage of being easily copied, backed up, and transported. But image using it!" (302-303).

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