[open-humanities] The importance of search

Jonathan Gray j.gray at cantab.net
Thu Feb 23 22:40:00 UTC 2012

I've just been doing various bits of academic reading and writing, and
it has just struck me with a force bigger and mightier than ever
before: the importance of search. Such an important thing for TEXTUS
to get right.

For example, being able to do things like see all the times Nietzsche
mentions Novalis. Or to find bits where Herder talks about the French
revolution. Or to see who actually read or cited works by Frederick
the Great. Especially if we can enable people to do (ever more)
comprehensive searches across a given thinker's corpus. Having more
and more letters and manuscripts in the system would mean this could
be fantastically useful.

It might be a trivial thing which we know how to flawlessly implement,
or it might be a really difficult, totally non-trivial thing that
loads of people have struggled with, but thought it was worth putting
down my book and writing an email about due to the level of importance
I now think getting this right has. ;-)

One possibly non-obvious thing I thought of was the idea that if you
search for 'Nietzsche' or another philosopher that we have data for in
a given text or collection, the system could cunningly give you the
option for searching for works by Nietzsche as well (or - two steps
ahead - ambiently give you the results of such a search). I'm sure
this would entail nightmarish semanticisation or technical acrobatics
beyond the scope of this project, but 'just sayin' how cool it would


Jonathan Gray

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