Tuesday, March 21, 2006

As my part in The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck draws to a close, I realize two things: I have learned a great deal through the process, and the project probably won’t really come to an end. As I have wrestled with the online text, the editing and annotating, the research, I have gained new skills and knowledge—knowledge of the electronic textual format and of the lives of Mary Shelley and the 15th century British royals. As for my part in the project being complete, I’m not sure when that will occur.

For my research, I did refer to several books and periodicals, but most of my information came from websites and online articles. That seems appropriate for the nature of this project. As I did my research, I bookmarked a number of sites. Then as I was annotating my chapter, I had those references right at my fingertips. Just a click and I was reading about Richard III. Another click and I was back to Chapter One of Perkin Warbeck, ready to make a comment. The speed and availability of information made this assignment interesting while at the same time, sometimes overwhelming.

I found myself developing a relationship to my chapter in the text. The more I learned about British history, the Wars of the Roses, the Plantagenet and Tudor kings, the closer I felt to the words on the screen. I began to feel like those pages were mine. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I scrolled down and saw the blue words that indicated my contributions. The blue words also helped me find my way on the pages, a problem I had earlier with the text. I relished moving screen by screen and clicking on the highlighted words, reading the additions I had made, amazed at the wealth of information I had garnered over the course of my research.

Then I would click on a blue word that I hadn’t highlighted, and I would be reminded that this chapter was not solely mine. Others had gone before me, editing the chapter and making their comments. Others would certainly come after me, doing more research and making more annotations. I found this a bit disconcerting. When I turn in a paper to a professor, it belongs to me. The quotes and some ideas may have come from other sources, but the synthesis is mine, and I take full credit for the work. I can’t claim the same for this project, which indicates that this type of work ushers in a fresh paradigm. The success of this project requires collaboration; its achievement depends on one person’s work building on that of another’s. My supplements to the chapter are just one phase of an on-going process, and I will have to share the final result, if there ever is one, with many others.

There are still a few aspects of the annotations that challenge me. For example, a word or name highlighted in the text can only have one annotation. I had wanted to make two different entries about the same person. When I highlighted the name the second time, I was shown to my earlier annotation. I had to insert some fresh words in order to be able to write a new annotation. I’m wondering if this is true from chapter to chapter, since an earlier link entered on my page takes me to a character in a later chapter. Perhaps this is a characteristic of the wiki text that can be modified.

Having spent a great deal of time soaking in the history of the 15th century Brits, I have a much deeper understanding of what was going on in the novel. I want to sit down and read it again, realizing that I will grasp so much more the second time around. In a few more semesters, as this project continues to develop and more information is included in the supplements, the reading of the story will gain breadth and depth. I look forward to returning to the text again in the future after others have placed their fingerprints on it.

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