Monday, December 07, 2009

Sustainable Living and the UK National Health Service

If you are following the news about Copenhagen and are interested in what the NHS is doing about sustainability in the UK (where the NHS is Britain's largest employer and one of the largest contributors to the UK carbon footprint), the BMJ has commissioned a video about the impact of climate change on babies born today, and how the NHS can reduce its carbon footprint.

The video is here: Maisie & George and the future of their planet

How is this connected with textual criticism? It is a quiz. Answers in the comments please!


  1. Dr. Head,

    During the interview of Tina Pollard,Clinical Service Manager, Neonatal Services, The Rosie Hospital, she made a statement about the use of paper. She said,

    “The amount of paper we use, even though we are supposed to be going to a paperless system, we still use a tremendous amounts of paper to print out. And actually where does it end up? In a confidential waste bin.”

    The key point I would note here is that she mentioned a move to a "paperless system." This raises at least one question: How does one deal with maintaining the integrity of a text that exists only in electronic form? I am not claiming that it is wrong, or flawed in and of itself, but rather that for the practice of TC the "rules" will be different. With the push of a button, hundreds or even thousands of copies of an electronic text can be sent around the world. How does one 'trace' the history of an electronic text? What are the dangers of assuming that an electronic, paperless form of a text is without variation?

    I googled the following: electronic texts and textual criticism. I found an article from C. M. Sperberg-McQueen [[ ]] in which he noted noted the following concerning electronic texts. Sperberg-McQueen's essay draws concepts from (and notes differences to) an essay by Walter Benjamin, "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit," concerning the authenticity of reproductions of art works. The essay Sperberg-McQueen wrote is now 15 years old, so there have been advances since. I would just point out a couple of comments he made concerning literary texts and TC.

    Sperberg-McQueen wrote:
    "Like other arts subject to technological reproduction, literature is transmitted by, and thus dependent on, but nevertheless logically distinct from, its physical carriers. Because those physical carriers inevitably vary among themselves, the question of authenticity does arise for literary works, despite [Walter] Benjamin's claim that authenticity is not an issue when dealing with reproductions. Those who address the question of authenticity, we call textual critics. They, along with those scholars who study the reception and dissemination of a work, will necessarily be concerned with the individual histories of individual copies of the work, what Benjamin refers to as the "die Geschichte, der es [d.i. das Kunstwerk] im Laufe seines Bestehens unterworfen gewesen ist." [5 - "[T]he history, to which it [sc. the artwork] has been subject in the course of its existence." Benjamin, paragraph 2, pp. 13-14. ]

    C. M. Sperberg-McQueen went on to note that "Benjamin, of course, is by no means alone in passing over in silence the uncomfortable fact that mechanical reproductions can vary, nor is it hard to find others who confuse an abstract art with its concrete means of transmission. His illusions or evasions about the stability of mechanical processes and the uniformity of their products are shared by the vast majority of our colleagues, who are, painful though it is to say it, made nervous by the basic facts of (textual) reproduction and the variation it brings about, and who consistently ignore or evade evidence of textual variation in order to speak about texts as if they were singular, unchanging objects, stable artefacts whose details are not open to question."

    I, Steven, am sure that there are other articles and discussions concerning TC and electronic formats (I’ve read some, but can’t put my finger on them at the moment).

    I would just ask the question, What does the future hold for TC in our age of technology? Will the marvelous tool called a computer be our undoing? What will TC look like in the 22 century?

    Steven Whatley

  2. OK, a bit of a caveat is in order for my comment "Will the marvelous tool called a computer be our undoing? " This is somewhat tongue in cheek. I am certainly not suggesting we don't use computers. 3 reasons: (1) This blog is computer based (2) I helped with the CNTTS NT Critical Apparatus in Accordance Bible software (3) my study in orthographic shifts would be impossible without my computer.

    Be well,
    Steven Whatley

  3. Thanks Stephen,

    I think you raise an interesting question, although at the moment most of the digital texts also have an official "home" which presumably takes some responsibility for maintaining the text in an appropriate state.

  4. I think one could argue that the CSNTM is pursuing a very "sustainable" project - sure they are using plenty of resources, but the result is that many more of us don't need to travel by plane searching for manuscripts.

  5. Having recently been attempting to tidy up my office I am getting more motivated to work towards a less paperfull office environment.

  6. Dr. Head,

    Thank you for the quiz. This was a tricky one. I must say that agree on all three of your points. We at the CNTTS are certainly indebted to the CSNTM for its invaluable resources. Also, I use a digital camera in the library for copies (less paper to carry around).

    be well

  7. Stephen,

    Also I posted this because my wife features in the video!

  8. Peter, don't be shy. I understand you are also deeply engaged in sustainable living worldwide. This is another the answer to the quiz:

  9. What, another walking joke?

    Ah no, another Peter Head. A "global influencer" no less. Hmmm.