Literary Sleuths Online

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Study of Pynchon Wiki first presented at AoIR 2007

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  • Paper presented at AoIR in Vancouver October 2007; Full paper to be published in _Information, Communication & Society_ next March Small case study collaboration of Ralph and me: Ralph had been working on Pynchon, Weber in Pynchon, before I have been working on Wikis This seemed to be an opportune moment to bring our expertise together.
  • Literary Sleuths Online

    1. 1. Literary Sleuths Online: e-Research Collaboration on the Pynchon Wiki Ralph Schroeder Matthijs den Besten
    2. 3. Motivation <ul><li>November 2006: Thomas Pynchon publishes “Against the Day”; </li></ul><ul><li>A Wiki immediately springs up that has annotated “Against the Day” in full; </li></ul><ul><li>Autumn 2007: How does the annotation measure up? How do Wikis work as collaborative tools? How does e-Research collaboration work? </li></ul>
    3. 4. e-Research, Online Collaboration, and Pynchon <ul><li>Wikipedia </li></ul><ul><li>e-Research in the Humanities and other Sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Pynchon website and mailing list, similar to some other authors </li></ul><ul><li>Wiki shifts attention to annotation and away from mailing list </li></ul>
    4. 5. Charting Pynchon Activity Online Anticipation Annotation And what’s next?
    5. 6. Outline <ul><li>Pynchon’s Work - Online & Offline </li></ul><ul><li>The “Against the Day” Wiki </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of online annotations </li></ul>
    6. 7. Thomas Pynchon <ul><li>A notorious recluse; </li></ul><ul><li>Author of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gravity’s Rainbow, annotated in book form </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Against the Day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other Novels annotated </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Arcana integral to story-lines </li></ul>
    7. 8. Literary Annotation and “Against the Day” <ul><li>Annotation can ‘check up on author’, or quixotically follow trail of leads, or provide ‘engagement’ with author </li></ul><ul><li>Pynchon: ‘…it may not be wrong to make it up…there are no longer any exuses for small stupid mistakes’ </li></ul><ul><li>Mixed reviews, publication preceded by lots of ‘buzz’ </li></ul>
    8. 10. Wiki Structure <ul><li>There's basically 3 things the Wiki does at the moment:” (Pirate Prentice, 2007) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>straight up reference; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>connections to other Pynchon novels; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interpretation. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>By July 2007: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>> 200 contributors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>> 5000 entries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>> 400 000 words </li></ul></ul>
    9. 11. Wiki Governance <ul><li>Volunteer effort </li></ul><ul><li>Registered users only </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘laid back sherrif’ </li></ul><ul><li>Separation of discussion and annotation pages </li></ul><ul><li>Page-by-page first, then topical and alphabetical </li></ul>
    10. 12. Wiki Edits over Time
    11. 13. Why page-by-page? <ul><li>‘ I think the page-by-page (can we now call that the PbP?) is a lot more fun to edit, since it follows the way I am reading the book’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fblau 09:03, 25 November 2006 </li></ul></ul>
    12. 14. Pages of Against the Day annotated over time
    13. 15. Most edited topics 18 Birds 10 25 Timeline 9 27 Against_the_Day_description 8 28 ATD_cover_analysis 7 29 Thomas_Pynchon 6 31 The_Sexual_Angle 5 44 Against_the_Day_Title 4 71 Errata 3 73 ATD_Reviews 2 158 Main_Page 1
    14. 16. Comparison of Annotation efforts by Weisenburger and in the Pynchon Wiki V. 6 76+753+236 95603 Mason Dixon 13 76+1231+309 75934 Gravity's Rainbow 20 155+1356+214 168902 Crying of Lot 49 13 22+2+94 32214 Against the day 235 120+1358+4067 455057 Weisenburger’s Gravity’s Rainbow 1(22) 904 162000 Annotation Contributors Entries (topical+alphabetical + page-by-page) Size (no. of words)
    15. 17. Qualitative Assessment of Contributions <ul><li>Weisenburger can be used as benchmark </li></ul><ul><li>Weisenburger’s entries are ‘scholarly’ </li></ul><ul><li>Wiki entries pursue ‘long shots’ </li></ul><ul><li>Weber and other Wiki entries use Web, Weisenburger relies on limited and apposite sources </li></ul>
    16. 18. Comparing Weisenburger and Wiki <ul><li>Wiki continues to expand and becomes more differentiated (where does reference stop?) </li></ul><ul><li>Stabilization and finalization as with Wikipedia? Side by side possibilities? </li></ul><ul><li>Weisenburger references print, Wiki references Web </li></ul><ul><li>Wiki is anonymous </li></ul>
    17. 19. Conclusions I <ul><li>Wiki strengths (range and depth) vs book strenths (conciseness and consistency) – and Wiki has speed and size </li></ul><ul><li>Wiki structure encourages ‘race’ to finish detective work </li></ul><ul><li>Encouraging contribution and interaction with other readers, but does this lead to finalization or discussion forum? </li></ul>
    18. 20. Conclusions II <ul><li>Benkler on peer-to-peer creativity, </li></ul><ul><li>Annotations enhance reading, Wiki also provides enjoyable collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>“ a great place to share my discovery--without feeling too shy about the ‘well duh, of course everyone knows that...’ responses that one might subject oneself to in an open forum” - Ande, 2007 </li></ul>

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