ElAnt v5n1 - Editorials - Re-introductory Editorial

Volume 5, Number 1
February 1999

Virginia Tech and, with it, Professor Terry Papillon, have provided a new life for Electronic Antiquity. Because of the current impoverishment of Australian universities, and that combined with the speed of technological change, Electronic Antiquity has been hampered in the hoped-for trajectory of its development. This has impacted visually and, of course as a consequence, in the quantity of its submissions. We are profoundly grateful to both Virginia Tech and to Professor Papillon for providing the journal a means for remedying these problems.

A new home has also meant the infusion of new habits, ideas, and expectations. There is a European editor, Professor Emanuele Narducci of the University of Florence, and a new European board member, Professor Mario Citroni, also from Florence. Professor Papillon joins us as Associate Editor, and as a reviews editor, Professor Andrew Sprague Becker, also of Virginia Tech. It is our hope that Electronic Antiquity will be able to carry much more European, especially Italian, material in future and that, under Professor Becker's direction, it will increase its review content, especially of the type represented in this issue by Professor Duhoux' fascinating contribution.

The journal, as we say, has moved north, like both of its original editors (Worthington to Missouri and Toohey shortly to Calgary). Exactly the same pressures that have driven the editors from Australia have been placed upon the journal. These are pressures, alas, to which all classicists, and indeed humanists, and academic theoreticians of all types within Australia have become subject. It is a sorry and disgraceful state of affairs. At any rate these moves, expedient, practical, and welcomed in all three cases, point not just to the catastrophic monetarist political policies that are slowly strangling Australian academic life (and nearly did strangle Electronic Antiquity) but also to the very limitations of electronic media.

In 1993, when Electronic Antiquity was begun, we believed that electronic communication could remedy the tyranny of distance, especially as it is experienced by those working in the southern hemisphere. We also believed that it could provide an alternative to the sometimes leaden publishing practices of print journals. I am not sure that either of these outcomes were ever possible. Journals exist as much for the establishment of career trajectories as they do for the dissemination of knowledge. It would be naïve to imagine that it could be otherwise. To some degree that is the reason why electronic journals in classical studies have not flourished in the way that they might have been expected to. Print will remain the preeminent medium for career advancement. It has tradition on its side. Let us hope, however, that those who are less concerned with such important matters as career advancement may prefer the speed, immediacy, and freshness of electronic publication.

While it survives. I suspect that the dangers faced by electronic publication will ultimately not consist in the exigencies of tenure and career advancement, but in the very manner by which electronic communication has come to constitute itself. I would point to three areas that impinge unexpectedly upon the future of electronic publication. None of these could have been predicted in 1993 when Electronic Antiquity began. First there is the trivialization of the Net itself with its unlimited number of personal and business sites. Instant publication on the Net has meant a downgrading of the seriousness with which information presented in this manner is taken. Second, there is the pornographization of the Net. This cannot be underestimated. Some of the most professional of sites on the Net are now devoted to material whose nature, at the very best, is dismal. Such a milieu inevitably colours the way by which one approaches this communicatory medium. Third, there is the inevitable movement within electronic media from print to oral and visual communication (again, best demonstrated by the modes most favoured by the pornographers). Typed or written email must surely give way to the voice and the image. Electronic publication could hardly prosper within such a mode of dissemination. It must come to resemble mere hypertextual lectures. Each of these forces conspire against the seriousness and longevity of electronic publication.

In spite of these dour pressures, the experiment must continue. The medium is too new, too democratic, and too much at the heart of the way by which communication itself is being shaped to be abandoned. In Australia, in so many libraries (and I suspect that this is true across the southern hemisphere), budgetary constraint, combined with the fall of most currencies against the US dollar, has meant that library purchases have been more than halved annually. Library votes must be focused on the books that students need absolutely, and on those books and journals without which scholars simply cannot remain competitive. Many journals that do not exist in electronic format must therefore be abandoned for fiscal reasons. The need, therefore, for the maintenance of journals such as Electronic Antiquity, or the excellent Didaskalia, or the short-lived but exemplary Arachnion remains all the more necessary, if for nothing else than to keep the life-lines intact. This is something for which the northern hemisphere must take responsibility.

We hope, therefore, that past readers will be drawn back to the newly formatted journal. We hope too that past contributors will consider again working with us. We hope too that the new generation of scholars, for whom electronic dissemination is not in the least novel, will also be drawn to our democratic pages.

Peter Toohey, Ian Worthington
April 5, 1999

Electronic Antiquity Vol. 5 Issue 1 - February 1999
Technical Editor, Terry Papillon: Terry.Papillon@vt.edu
ISSN 1320-3606

by ASL