No joke today: I plan to publish the link to the edition tomorrow. We could still postpone for a while, but right now, what we mostly need is users’ feedback. Even if I have not prepared (by far) as many letters as I wanted to, the few I have prepared have already allowed me to broaden noticeably the scholarly horizon of the “intellectual networks” that are at the core of the edition. The unexpected boom of the index of persons has made me develop new questions on that topic: How can we explain the hierarchy in the historical recognition of some categories of persons vs. the non-recognition of some others? To what extent does it have to do with politics or with communication strategies, how does it relate to the constitution of a historical and/or literary canon? What would be an appropriate way to represent the position women took in those networks despite the lack of information we have on them, how can we gather such information? Why is it so hard to gain information on publishers, even though their names and the works they published are so well known? I hope that the cooperation with the PDR will help me structure this over the spring and summer.
One thing that had to be decided before going online was the license under which we will publish the work. We finally settled on a non commercial CC-BY. Since I had not really intended at first the “non commercial” part, let me tell you how it came to it.
The way I put things “out there” on the internet feels to me at some extent like recklessness. I don’t particularly trust human nature; I am certainly exposing myself to distortions of my work. I accept it for myself (like I do in this blog): I consider that there is a certain solidity to the contents I publish which is, to my eyes, sufficient to make it intellectually self-sustainable. Even if someone abuses the contents I put online, re-uses them under his or her name, I am confident enough that the right people will know what is actually my work.
It turned out that for the younger people in my team, they see things quite differently. It has to do with the fact that they are less established scholars than I am on the one hand, and with the corpora we edit on the other hand. While I go with obscure correspondences or lecture notes, they happen to be the ones that are responsible for the “big authors” in the edition: they are the ones who publish major literary works after the manuscript, like it has (for some) never been done before. As for me, I only considered it a great chance for them to be the first ones to do so. It did not occur to me that – because these works belong to the canon – it would expose them to plagiarism or denial of the work done. This is how we settled on the non commercial license: even if their work is bound to be subject to criticism (which we will thankfully be able to integrate through updates – this medium is so great, really), at least nobody should be able to earn money with it.
I don’t actually believe it will change much. But if it gives them the feeling that their work is more protected, why not. The problem is, your work is never protected, it is always a risk, an exposure, a hope for a dreamed audience that can just as much turn into a nightmare. And yet: so few things are as enjoyable as putting a message in a bottle. Go figure…