Via Cliopatria I learned of Google's partnership with libraries at Stanford, Harvard & c. to digitize their entire holdings. Copyrighted materials will only be available in selections and out-of-copyright texts (manuscripts!?) in their entirety. Here is the NYT piece and here is more information about Google Print (beta). Rob has a good post on similair efforts elsewhere.
This advances my hopes/fears of an Artificial Historian. In the earlier post, I speculated with Amazon's A9 technology. One can easily substitute Google Print here. Anyone using Gmail knows that Google does contextual analysis of your email (keywords leading to targeted ads). So, let's assume that Google has 4 or 5 research libraries scanned, how does that give us an academic text? By treating bibliographies as out-going and in-coming links in the PageRank technology, Google can easily consolidate existing scholarship into the consensus view. Combine that with a wiki-type ability for users to weed out any incongruities. Summation, images, simple verb structure and you have your Brief History of Summara in less than a second. Obviously, it won't use any primary Arabic sources since I doubt that Arabic will scan as text rather as image [regardless, I will be a happy happy man if I don't have to go to England every time I need to see one lousy manuscript for my diss].
In related news, is this the right moment to start wondering about Google? I love them but who will own these archives? This knowledge free of walls and librarians? Probably no need to worry just yet. They ain't evil like someone else. But I would still prefer that our govt. would take more initiative.
In unrelated news, I got a CFP that is noteworthy, "* Sexuality.â€šÃ„â€ If the nation is structured by discourses of sexuality, how might transnationalism "queer" the discourses of nation or of "home"?â€šÃ„â€ In the borderlands or transnational sites, how do sexuality and displacement articulate one another?" HUH!?
I dunno about that CFP. It sure makes sense to me. There seems to be a ton of stuff being done about that pushes the family/nation metaphor to its logical conclusions, like using the idea of domesticity in the family as a metaphor for American nation-forming as well in the 19th c. I'm just sayin' I've seen it done, and it's been assigned for class.