I “finished” my Wikisource annotations about 10 days ago. As I was writing the “last” annotation, I remember thinking two things: 1) Wow that was way more work than I initially realized. 2) My sense of completion on this project is very tangential. This project is unlike any other academic assignment I have undertaken. Unlike an essay or presentation, which are characterized by finality, by completion, our edition is open to constant change. JOH has really stressed, for me, the arbitrariness and, perhaps even falsity, of designating a work “complete.”
In terms of amount of work, I really was surprised by how many hours I spent slouched at my computer, eyes glazed over, looking into some really strange biblical phrases or fascinating facts about everyday Victorian life… I never thought I would be writing about coal holes, for example. Although I did spend quite a lot of time as the editor of my 25 or so pages, I can’t help wondering how much longer and painstaking this project would have been without the internet. Every time there was strange phrasing in the text, I would copy and paste the sentence into Google and 9/10 times I would find that JOH was referring to a biblical passage. Without the internet, I simply would not have the knowledge or even skill to assume the role of editor. I often wondered how editors managed at all before the internet. Who could possibly know the bible that well?!
My time on this project, also underlined, for me, a kind of diminishment of the need for expertise (hopefully, I am not sounding as dogmatic as Keen). The answer to my former question about the bible is, quite simply, a scholar of Judeo-Christianity or, in the very least, someone who is extremely well-versed in the bible. Would this same expert know about coal holes or floriography or Victorian mourning clothes?… I am not so sure. Before the internet, it probably would have taken the work of a diverse team of researchers and scholars to undertake a project like this. It seems to me that every edition, regardless of whether it is printed or digitized, pre or post internet, is most likely the result of group rather than singular effort. It’s funny because as much as our project is a social edition, each 25 page unit seemed to be undertaken singularly, with little to no collaboration within the editorial segment. Our collaboration seemed to occur between the pages rather than within them.