Frequently Asked Questions

stoa.org

Last changed:April 7, 2011

What is this Stoa Consortium all about?
In short: refereed collaborative publication of structured data for wide audiences.

Why is this site called "The Stoa" anyway?
The original Stoics spent their time arguing their philosophy on the steps of the Stoa Poikile ("Painted Colonnade") in the Athenian marketplace, in full view of the general public. The importance and visibility of Stoic ideas made them influential for hundreds of years. That seems to be a worthy aspiration! At any rate, we too hope to generate plenty of lively new scholarship in the most public of places. (If you want to read more about the originals, there are some informative web pages on the Stoics.)

Is the Stoa a publisher? A library? A standards group? A professional organization?
The Stoa can best be understood as a source of support and coordination for electronic scholarship in the humanities, with a special focus on the ancient world and the classical tradition.

Why would I want to work with this consortium in publishing my scholarship?
The Stoa is committed to the success of electronic publication as a means for scholars in the humanities to engage an interested public. To that end this consortium provides a careful review of scholarship using three primary criteria: high intellectual quality according to disciplinary standards, accessibility to wide audiences, and consistency with the technical considerations advanced by the Stoa.

What types of publications does the Stoa seek? Where can I see examples of Stoa-published work?
The Stoa supports excellent scholarship in the humanities. We are especially interested in projects with the potential to interest wide public audiences, and we want to help shape work toward that goal. Such publications will generally take advantage of the possibilities for hypertextuality and multimedia enhancement offered by the internet. There may often be a high degree of collaboration involved. We will maintain links to all Stoa-sponsored publications from the Projects section of this site. The range of subjects and approaches you can already see there demonstrates our catholicity.

Why the internet? Is there anything wrong with traditional print publication?
This need not be considered an either/or situation: we believe that there will be a long coexistence of print and electronic publication, and we don't dispute the continuing -- if dwindling -- utility of print for certain academic purposes. However, the purpose of the Stoa is to exploit the peculiar virtues and advantages of electronic publication. As a non-print medium the web offers the possibility of improving the ratio between production cost and size of audience. For the same reason it dramatically lowers the cost of updating valuable work by publishing second editions. As a hypertextual medium, it presents authors and editors with the possibility of designing publications that can be variously configured to meet the needs of diverse readerships. Finally, because repositories of data can be stored in one place but accessed from a wide variety of sites, there is much less need to duplicate material. This last feature ought to make collaborative work easier, and it should eliminate some of the duplication of effort and waste of time that is an unavoidable concomitant of the circulation of printed books.

Isn't electronic publication -- especially for a broad audience -- still a big risk to my career?
Less so now than in the past, but high quality is still the key. There are many examples of people whose work includes electronic publications that contributed substantially to their promotions and other forms of academic success. We believe that the Stoa's careful process of review and thoughtful handling of technical and archival issues can offer you real support, if you do want to publish your work on the internet.

Can you supply some details about the technical agenda of the Stoa?
Sure. First of all, we admire creativity, variety, and initiative, and we have no intention of burdening authors with arbitrarily restrictive or overly complex rules. We want to see a vast assortment of accessible, stable, and interoperable electronic scholarship come into being. That vision guides whatever tactics we adopt. The Stoa will continuously explore, implement, and disseminate information about the best available technical practices and solutions to problems in electronic publication as they emerge. For example, the Extensible Markup Language is designed "to make it easy and straightforward to use SGML on the Web: easy to define document types, easy to author and manage SGML-defined documents, and easy to transmit and share them across the Web." We expect that XML will prove to be extremely important over time and we want to be engaged in its specific application to humanities publications.

How do Stoa documents work?
Our preference is for text with XML or SGML markup to show the structure of the document. From this markup, we can automatically create an attractive display, for example in HTML form for a web browser. More important, we can also read, search, and otherwise process the document based on its content. The structure and content markup makes it possible to find "chapter 3" or "every paragraph that refers to Apollo" both more efficiently and more accurately than would be possible with a brute-force search of a conventional web page.

What level of assistance can the Stoa provide with programming and other technical problems I encounter?
Our initial FIPSE grant provides the Stoa with a programmer for two years, beginning in the summer of 1998. Robert Chavez came to the Stoa from the Classics Department at Indiana University, and he has also worked in the Library Electronic Text Resource Service (LETRS) unit there for three years. Rob continues to work at Perseus and with the Stoa on various projects, but the second year of FIPSE support has brought us Anne Mahoney, who holds a Ph.D. in Classics from Boston University, and served as Principal Software Engineer at Pegasystems Inc. from 1987-1998. In addition, the members of this consortium have lots of accumulated technical expertise from a wide variety of projects, and that too can serve as leverage for new and continuing efforts. But it seems there is never enough help on technical problems. People who are developing more elaborate projects will also want to develop their own local sources of technical support, for example research assistantships or alliances with Computer Science departments and Humanities Computing units.

Who owns my work after I've published it?
You do. (Or in the case of collaborative projects, the collaborators do.) But the Stoa also retains non-exclusive rights to publication. This is necessary to prevent the withdrawal from the consortium of scholarship on which others have built subsequent links, arguments etc. The Stoa's non-exclusive rights thus represent a key element in our strategy for achieving the central goals of long-term stability and interoperability.

Can the Stoa help me get a grant?
Obviously we can make no promises, but we hope that association with the Stoa will lend credibility to grant applications, and we may be able to provide specific suggestions as well.

Who will maintain the Stoa's electronic publications? What kind of longevity will they have? Will they be printed out and archived?
We plan to develop multiple archival locations on different types of servers, since redundancy helps to ensure long-term availability. In most cases we do not envision printing out archival copies, as these would not adequately represent the kinds of work sponsored by the Stoa.

 
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Please send your comments concerning The Stoa: A Consortium for Electronic Publication in the Humanities to Ross Scaife (scaife@stoa.org). This document was published on: 5 June 1998