Electronics vs Paper

Stan Blum sblum at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Oct 27 12:34:02 CDT 1995

At 09:59 AM 10/27/95 MDT, Ross Hastings wrote:
>Dear Taxacomers:
>I must say that I find these arguments in favour of electronic publishing of
>new taxa rather shortsighted in light of the ephemeral nature of electronic

I must disagree.  Yes, we've all seen evolving media standards turn old data
sets into "useless" stacks of punch cards or whatever.  But there is a
significant difference between the kinds of data sets that find themselves
in such isolation and databases that are community resources:  FREQUENCY OF
USAGE.  Data get stranded on obsolete media because they are not used.  Any
database that achieves the status of community resource, by definition, will
be used regularly, and regular usage guarantees persistence.

Duke Ellington made recordings in 1929, on who knows what medium -- probably
some kind of wax platter.  You can hear those recordings (i.e., experience
that information) today on CD.  The demand has been large enough to keep the
music moving from format to format.

Ok, so a desciption of _Obscurus arcanus inanus_ isn't going to be as
popular as "Mood Indigo".  Fortunately, systematists can achieve an economy
of scale by pooling their descriptions into electronic libraries, which as a
whole will serve a comparably large constituency.

Moreover, paper and electronic media are not mutually exclusive.  We are not
facing an "either/or" choice.  If we want our information to survive
armagedon, we should, by all means, put it on paper or clay tablets and bury
it in a salt mine.  But if we want people to use the information we create,
we should probably consider making it available in at least one other medium.

Stanley D. Blum,                      e-mail: sblum at violet.berkeley.edu
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology               Office phone:   510/643-0352
3101 Valley Life Sciences Building
Univ of Calif, Berkeley                    MVZ front desk: 510/642-3567
Berkeley, CA 94720                         MVZ Fax:        510/643-8238

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