Peirce Telecommunity Project
of the Electronic Peirce Consortium, Inc.
Project Number 22 – 1993
Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, Texas 79409-3092
Fax: (806) firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Individuals And Organizations Associated With The Project
Director, Georgetown Center
for Text and Technology
Assistant Director for Special Projects
Academic Computer Center
Washington, D.C. email@example.com
Senior Academic Planning Analyst
Computing and Information Services
Co-Director, Women Writers Project
Providence, Rhode Island 02912
Analyst, Academic Projects Group
Computing and Information Services
Providence, Rhode Island 02912
The foregoing persons are presently active in the Peirce Telecommunity Project proper,
with Ransdell, Neuman, and Renear functioning as co-directors.
(Bilder works closely with Renear at Brown and has made many special contributions.)
The Peirce Telecommunity Project is formally a project of the Electronic Peirce Symposium (EPC),
which officially represents Georgetown University (through Neuman),
Brown University (through Renear), Texas Tech University (through Ransdell),
Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (through Kloesel, below),
and Harvard University (through Putnam, below).
In its legally incorporated form it includes as members Neuman, Renear, Ransdell,
Kloesel (below), and Keeler (below), all of whom contributed substantially to its development through 1992.
Dr. Christian Kloesel
Peirce manuscript material)
Dr. Hilary Putnam
Dr. Mary Keeler
We have exceeded your length restrictions, but perhaps within tolerable limits if you wish to ignore the appendix for purposes of review. Please accept our apologies for this, but the project is a complex one. We include the appendix because the special type of communicational community we are developing may not be readily apparent without some special explanation. (JMR)
The Peirce Telecommunity Project is a collaboration of persons at different universities, from different parts of academia, in developing a network-based academic center of a kind made possible by the new informational technologies. The leading idea is to develop a public “place”–presumably one among many–for research, learning, and communication, differing from others of its type by the special collection and arrangement of subject-matter resources (databases, digital libraries, etc.) and the facilities for access, use, and communication about the subject-matter available there.
In this case the resource material is work of, about, and otherwise related to Charles Sanders Peirce, an American philosopher of exceptional importance and diverse accomplishments and interests. But the intended function of the Center is not simply to provide effective access to the whole of Peirce’s work, and to other work related to it, but to take advantage of its attractive power to develop a special place on-line where people interested in topics to which his work is relevant will find it natural to “go” to make professional contact with others with related or congenial interests, and to use its facilities to establish for themselves, either as individuals or as members of special interest groups, individually customized systems of access to resource material of special interest to them.
The project was originally conceived primarily in view of its intrinsic value as a scholarly project enabled by the new technologies, in hopes that its suitability as an R & D testbed, taken together with the strong case that can be made for its scholarly need, would attract the funding required. In view of what we have learned about the situation in academic networking, we now put equally strong emphasis on its value as providing an attractive illustration of the use of communicational technologies to academic faculty in particular, who still have little understanding of or interest in these matters and are largely oblivious of the professional and personal opportunities it offers.
There is reason to believe that the spread of communicational networking will tend to encourage the forming of on-line locations or “places”–network addresses–at which will be found:
- collections of specially organized intellectual resources (databases, digital libraries, etc.) for accessing the subject-matters of more or less closely related communities of common interest (“CCIs”: a term explained in an accompanying appendix)
- persons availing themselves of those resources and communicating with one another about them
- special systems-environments of computer-based tools or instruments enabling those persons to access those resources efficiently and to communicate with one another about those subject-matters.
Academic communities of common interest (CCIs)–humanistic or scientific–tend to cluster together in virtue of various kinds of overlap, and places of access to academic clusters of this sort are what we envision as being exemplified by the on-line Center of the Peirce Telecommunity: a single network address functioning as the entrance-way to a loosely-knit but intelligibly and humanely structured domain of resources, instruments, and human relationships.
The project as a whole is conceptually distinguishable into three functionally interdependent subprojects, corresponding both to the three segments of academia implicitly alluded to above– library/information science, computer service, and academic faculty and students–and to the three essential components which appear when we analyze the nature of an academic community of the relevant sort (i.e. a CCI): *the subject-matter of interest* as it is available in digitally represented form, *the persons concerned with it and with one another* in relationship with it, and *the sophisticated instruments of access and communication* enabling this. Thus our subprojects are:
- The Georgetown University Manuscripts/Digital Library Project: Directed by Michael Neuman, Center for Text and Technology
- The Brown University Computer Tools Project: Directed by Allen Renear, Computer and Information Services
- The Texas Tech University Telecommunity Development Project: Directed by Joseph Ransdell, Department of Philosophy
In general, as developers, we regard ourselves as working with a nonterminating process of professional activity, not created but only redirected, informed, and encouraged by us: our involvement ends when and as the Telecommunity itself becomes autonomous. Thus the project as a whole is named after the telecommunity subproject, the task of which is to craft the on-line form of the internationally dispersed but already existing Pierce intellectual community by direct communication with its members as professional peers, who are encouraged not merely to make use of the center but to become a part of the ongoing development team. We want to emphasize that this is a user-community project: technologically enabled, but not technology-driven.
The Peirce Telecommunity Project has been under active conceptual development for some two and a half years by persons whose professional obligations allow little “spare time” for such an activity, thus sporadically and largely at personal expense. Nevertheless, we have already been funded in our planning phase for a total of $67,000 from two sources (Indiana University and the National Science Foundation), and all three aspects of the project have been researched with sufficient thoroughness to estimate the expenses of implementation in a scalable way and with reasonable exactitude, though of course the rapid changes in technology require a continual updating of this.
Since this is a network-based project, involving collaboration of persons from different universities with different but complementary professional “expertise,” it clearly qualifies as of interest to the Coalition under criteria (1) and (3). And since one of the three major dimensions of the project as a whole *is* a library/information science project, the only thing that is likely to be unclear as regards criterion (2) is the relationship to teaching as well as research, to which we will return briefly below. As for criterion (4), since ours is a humanities project which will require funding at a level approaching what is normally expected in the sciences, we are well aware of the importance of reconciling elegance and economy and are prepared to give a substantial description of our strategy in that respect. This leaves criterion (5)–replicability and long-term viability–which should perhaps be divided into two distinct criteria or else reworded in terms of maximizing two possibly divergent values. In the case of our own project these values can be shown to be mutually compatible and realizable, but we see no reason why there could not be important projects of the same general type as ours in which the accommodations made in the interest of maximizing long- term viability would at times turn development toward idiosyncrasy. (Projects similar to Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Native American Studies, and the like come immediately to mind as possible cases where these values might not always be compatible.)
As regards its intrinsic scholarly justification and its value as providing a testbed for R & D both in computer science and library/informational science, our project is based on (1) the international and interdisciplinary interest in Peirce’s work, (2) its generally recognized intellectual value, and (3) the unusual opportunities it offers–because e.g. of the kind of disorder in which much of it presently exists, the peculiarly nonlinear character of Peirce’s compositional method, and the unusual extent to which the graphical and the literal is combined in some of his work–for demonstrating that the new technologies can actually provide far more effective access to it than is possible even in principle when worked with in its paper embodiment.
As regards its value as illustrating the still largely unknown powers of communications technology to faculty in particular, we are speaking of a professional enrichment which cannot be dismissed as a mere technological facilitation and, moreover, of an appeal to faculty motivation much closer to the heart of faculty life than the motivations usually appealed to at present. We believe that the library/information science community will be especially interested in this aspect of our project not only because of implications it might have for the conception of the on-line digital library and the principles governing their construction and deployment, but also because of the bearing it has on priorities in the development and implementation of educational technology, as contrasted with what might more naturally be thought of as research technologies, which we regard as prior in principle.
Within our limited space here we can only say that our view is that it is the technology that provides access to *the digitally based representation of the subject-matter*–the technology of the library, the database, and the media of professional communication–whose value must be demonstrated to the faculty, and, moreover, demonstrated not merely as a means of accessing text and/or evidence but also *as essentially involving access to other people in connection with access to the subject-matter*. Educational technology should be developed as the special case of this, based on the principle that the only relevant general difference between the student–not merely the university student but the K-12 student as well–and the professor or teacher that should be embodied in the technology is that the one has mastered skills of subject-matter access and peer communication at which the other is a novice to a greater or lesser degree.
Appendix: “Communities Of Common Interest (CCIs)”
The key to understanding faculty motivation, especially but not exclusively at the university level, is to understand that although university faculty are typically located in departments on particular campuses, and these departments usually correspond to degree-granting disciplines or to groupings of more or less closely related disciplines, the focus of faculty professional life is neither at the local nor the disciplinary level, but is given rather by *individual concern with special subject-matters*, conceived in terms of the problematics of a discipline or subdiscipline, and usually in the context of some special line of inquiry into it. But since the teaching functions of local campuses require that departments offer a comprehensive range of courses covering the special areas of the disciplines they represent, departmental hiring is by “slots” (or “specialties”) which insures that the “community of scholars” relevant to most university professors is *not* the department to which they belong (which often contains not a single colleague with a closely related specialized interest), much less the local faculty as a whole, but rather some special academic interest group with which the professor is only in remote contact at best, perhaps by participation at yearly professional conferences (given the time and money to attend such meetings), or through publication and commentary of various sorts in professional journals which appear at intervals measurable not merely in months but years.
This is why the phrase “community of scholars” is rarely used other than in promotional literature–or in contexts of irony–and why we speak instead of “communities of common interest” (CCIs) and contend that the most profound transformation of scholarship which communicational technology is destined to bring about will be in consequence of providing universally available access to these remote and–at present–highly inefficient communities of shared interest of the scholar, scientist, or other academician.
Since these communities of common concern or CCIs derive their existence from the fact that some number of persons find themselves attracted by the problematics of some special subject- matter, such a community should be understood to consist not simply of the persons in it, but also of the subject-matter itself, the resources and means of access to it, and the implicit problematics which provide the principles underlying the organization of its resources, the function of its instruments, and the intellectual frameworks shared by the community.
Thus the overall task of crafting of such communities is not the task of any technology nor is the overall understanding of such communities the task of any special science. There are no experts to whom these overall tasks can be turned over, though it could perhaps go without saying that the crafting and understanding of such communities, and the development of clusters of them in centers such as the Peirce Telecommunity Project aims at exemplifying, should of course make use of as much expertise as is available. But such communities must have a life and developmental potentiality of their own and in that sense be natural entities, and the direction of their development must come primarily from within: only the faculty can network the faculty.