Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Spent some of the day reading essays on databases and text encoding in A Companion to Digital Humanities. I'm reading the essays because I'm supposed to help with getting Dr. Thomas Walsh's Ong Bibliography online by playing interpreter between the techies (Information Technology Services) and non-techies (people in the English Department), and because the University Archivist is contemplating the merits of databases vs. text encoding to manage and search archival records. I have no idea what's going to happen with the Ong Bibliography, but on the issue of archival records, we're shying away from an either/or decision and thinking the answer may be both, ideally a database that creates both MARC records and XML. That way there's a database for internal record keeping and searching, and both the MARK records and XML (probably EAD) finding guide for users to search. Something like re:discovery would be awesome, but right now we've got Microsoft Access.

I didn't learn much from reading the articles, but I did get some good quotes from the database article which support what I want to argue in "Memory and the Art of Database." My favorite is the passage, "Prudence would suggest that only a few privileged users should possess the ability to create and destroy databases, and that a broader (but not unlimited) set of users be able to add data to existing databases" (Ramsey, Stephen, "Databases," 192). Clearly the fear here is not only "forgetting" -- the destruction of records -- but disorder, which is why you want to limit who can create databases and who can add to them. I find this so interesting because the great sin of memory in the Middle Ages was not forgetting but loosing control over what you remember, of disorder, and it was a sin against the virtue of Prudence.

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