At the University of Missouri-Columbia, modern technology is being used to promote and share information about an ancient practice - oral tradition.
MU, through its Center for Studies in Oral Tradition, recently launched an online version of its academic journal, Oral Tradition. The Web site, which includes the center's current issue and 10 other previously published issues, went live Sept. 18. The center, founded in 1986, collaborated with MU's Center for eResearch. The project took nearly two years to complete, and plans are currently underway to make all of the center's published issues -- a total of 30 more -- available on the Internet. The journal is published twice a year.
John Miles Foley, who is the director of the center and Curators' Professor of classical studies and English, said the online version will provide greater access to subscribers and improve the ability of researchers and scholars to share information about past and current oral traditions. He said in the past there had been problems with the distribution network and payment methods, and some subscribers had been unable to afford the journal. Other than Europe and the U.S., Foley said print versions sent via mail sometimes never reached their destinations in third-world countries and remote parts of Asia and Africa where the practice of oral traditions remains popular.
The center, however, will continue to publish hard copies of the journal through the end of 2006.
"The Web site provides universal, free access," Foley said. "For example, somebody in South Africa can go to the site and use any browser to download information. All of the barriers for communication are gone. The print version has become virtual, and now everybody can participate on a greater scale."
To celebrate the achievement and promote the Web site, e-mails were sent worldwide to researchers, organizations and universities which study the tradition of how information, cultural history and ancestry are passed via word of mouth from generation to generation to share information.
The Oral Tradition Web site is available at: http://journal.oraltradition.org/. Downloadable articles are available as PDF using Adobe Acrobat.