Being evaluated on a collective project, the Social Annotated Edition, is frightening, but it’s also a liberating prospect as well, in that we can reach out to one another for questions and help. But here is where the fear comes in. The foundational rug by which we begin this journey can collapse at any minute. We must learn to count on each other to complete this monumental project, but we must also be aware of those that are not in this class, that could perhaps engage with this text, and change it. The possibility that this could all be instantly erased factors into the fear as well. There are no guarantees, only actions. We embark as a team. We will toil over the annotations, and we will stumble across the new technology of Wikisource. Initial fears and all digressions aside, perhaps I should slice right into the meat and bones, leaving the potatoes aside.
This quote stands out in the Crane and Jones article entitled “Text, Information, Knowledge and the Evolving Record of Humanity”: “Put another way, human beings are still much better at reading and interpreting the contents of page images than machines” (Crane & Jones). In chewing this, we must realize that perhaps this is just one way to infuse the past paper editions with the modern digital present – knowing that human beings are needed in this process invites a marriage of forces somewhere in the shifting intermediary ground. To embrace modernity, and to find solutions, we must combine both the human and the machine in this constantly changing space. One of the recommendations that Crane and Jones make is illuminating, “We need more publications designed for machine and as well as human readers.” What if publishers and self-published writers did this automatically? What if, from now on, any book that was published in a print edition was also published digitally, or perhaps even, with a social edition aspect to it? What if publishers took the initiative and provided the libraries and centers with a digital edition? Could this make us less anxious about the constant march of the future? Perhaps if government could initiate grants to make this possible for publishers, then they could hire the people that are needed to make this possible? But here I speak of pipe dreams. If the corpus of past books, with the infinite access of books in the present, and those that will be published in the future could somehow meet in the border of somewhere, then perhaps the conversion of print books to digital could actually catch up. Perhaps, if from now on, we could imagine that every future print book was also being automatically published in a digital format, then the enormity and impossibility of the task could seem possible. Perhaps it’s idealistic, but in this recommendation, there is a possibility. Where? In opening up spaces for jobs for those in the humanities. If more and more people could learn to scale this in-between space, between editors and researchers and computer scientists and coders – then this could pave the path for a specialized career path that could open up. Someone who is both a traditional editor and someone who understands the technologies required for making the text digital. This can be problematic as well. It leaves questions of what technology? How would you standardize the process for publishers? Among numerous other questions that will open up. But any new height that’s been scaled has started with a question. So instead of leading with our fear, perhaps we should lead this project we embark on with questions. Surely, they will open more doors.