CHATTER: Maybe a Rant ... Megasites, Blogs, and Classics
The 'biblioblogs', as I call them -- Jim Davila's PaleoJudaica, Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway, Torrey Sealand's Philo of Alexandria blog, and Stephen Carlson's Hypotyposeis (that reminds me, I have to update my sidebar) -- have been engaged in a rather interesting interblog discussion of the desireability of the existence of a megasite (or sites) for New Testament/early Judaism and the logistics associated with such an effort. It might be useful to point out that the 'megasite' model they seem to be proposing already exists for Classics, but the thing that tied it all together disappeared, apparently due to lack of funding. There are piles of extremely useful Classical sites, of course, such as the Perseus Project, Lacus Curtius, the Latin Library, Forum Romanum, as well as numerous pages of more specialist interest like the Cicero Home Page, the Petronian Society's Ancient Novel site, House of Ptolemy, the Stoa and so on.
What tied these all together was the Argos search engine -- now defunct. It was a limited area search engine which had 'editors' and searched just a specific group of sites which had to be nominated etc.. It was initially useful, but increasingly seemed to give page after page of hits of dubious relevance as it grew in scope. It 'went out of business' due to 'lack of resources'. Surely the technology exists now to revive such a concept and make the 'megasite' idea a rather easier thing to put together than it might seem.
That said, the major danger of the megasite concept comes when sites change location (e.g. a professor moves to a different university and takes his stuff with him or her) or name -- most search engines don't have the ability to recognize that a site has moved (a case in point is my own website from years ago ... until rogueclassicism began, my new domain hardly appeared in Google (a great disincentive to publish things as regularly as I do in rogueclassicism), while the old one continues to get hits). It would also be useful if there were some way to incoporate the Wayback Machine into regular searches or have a facility to automatically check the Wayback Machine if a page came up 404.
The other major problem with the World Wide Web -- and this, after more than a decade of proving its usefulness for research -- is that 'the guys in charge' of academic tenure committees still seem to be reluctant to accept a website as a 'publication', no matter how much is put into it (I'm not sure if this is the case in New Testament/Biblical/Near Eastern studies but it does seem to continue to be the case in Classics). Until it is, it will remain largely something delegated to grad students to do.
What I'd really like to see the web used for is to provide a sort of forum for virtual conferences. Ages ago, when listervs were the latest thing, I had proposed that the format could be used to create a sort of group commentary of some ancient author. For example, a poem of Catullus could be posted and all the folks who were well-versed (groan), as it were, in Catullus could contribute to an ongoing commentary. Something of the sort did get started at the Stoa in regards to Cicero, but doesn't seem to have made any progress in a long time (and I can't find any reference to it any more). Similiter, I once proposed the medium could be used for vetting 'papers in progress', as was being done in other disciplines at the time (I had seen some scientific website which did this). It was met with the usual 'what a great idea' response that I've come to expect from the Classics community but very little else ... no offers to host, no offers to participate, etc.. I've come to the conclusion that if it isn't something that will enlarge one's CV, it won't be taken seriously by scholars.
I now think the listserv model was somewhat flawed, but the existence of blogs has changed the paradigm greatly. It would be a fairly easy thing for someone to set up a Movable Type blog and put into place the sorts of thing I had once proposed for a listserv environment. I might even take it a step further ... we've just had the APA meeting in San Francisco. There were plenty of very interesting panels which I'm sure were well attended and probably could have generated much more discussion than the time allowed. Imagine if all conferences set up a post-conference blog for each paper that was presented. The paper could be posted and discussions could be filtered through an editor and posted in a chronologically-sensible order by an editor. If the papers in question were destined for print, perhaps when the print version went to press, the blog version would be replaced with an abstract, but the discussion could remain. Wouldn't that be a great thing for those folks who couldn't make it to the conference or a particular session? Wouldn't the mere existence of such a thing on the web be possibly the best example of outreach that the Classics profession could do? And if scholars made the effort to take such efforts seriously, surely tenure committees and the like would 'come around' to considering this to be publication worthy of being considered for tenure.
I still think the group commentary has merit. On the Classics list someone recently proposed setting up a site of some sort wherein profs could make textbook recommendations -- again, the blog paradigm works well for this.
If there are any Classics scholars (perhaps grad students?) out there who can convince their fellow conference participants to participate in an experiment of this sort, I'll gladly set it up. If there is a group of profs who want to try a group commentary, ditto. If they want to do the textbook thing, ditto again. Drop me a line.
CHATTER: Thymos in the National Review
The National Review has an interesting bit of ClassCon in a piece by Mackubin Thomas Owens about John Kerry and various myths associated with the Vietnam War:
CHATTER: Oh ... never mind
This just came in the scan under the headline "Roman Gladiator Wins Trial":
Wow ... the gore trials were on a Sunday; can't wait for the main event on Friday ... [source]
GOSSIP: Yet Another Alexander Movie?
Comingsoon.net reports that there is yet another Alexander the Great movie -- or maybe trilogy -- in the works:
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
ante diem vi kalendas februarias
future emperor Tiberius
NUNTII: Latin Alive and Well (still)
The latest 'Latin-is-alive-and-well piece (I think this might be the one mentioned on the Latinteach list yesterday ... I was a bit too quick on the delete key):