Masthead CMC Magazine / May 1, 1996
 A Framework for Electronic Publishing Issues, by John December

Egalitarianism v. Elitism in Electronic Publishing

Most discussions of the need for equal access revolve around questions of access. If publications are available only on the Internet, are we creating an information elite, leaving behind those without access to the Internet or the appropriate hardware, software, and skills to use the World Wide Web? But Marlene Manoff brings up another, perhaps more crucial point, in her chapter, "Revolutionary or Regressive? The Politics of Electronic Collection Development." She questions the politics that go into choosing the "canon" of work that will be represented online.

As an example, Manoff points out that the American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL) project preserved authoritative French texts from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. While the electronic publication of this useful compendium makes new kinds of inquiry possible, the collection is strongly biased toward a male elite. Only 30 of the 588 authors are women, and the texts contain little other than literary, philosophical, and some technical texts. While not questioning the need and value of such a resource for French scholars, Manoff questions its composition, and raises the issue: will the electronic publishing of texts mirror such a selectivity in deciding what is "the canon," leaving out a diversity of voices?

As a counterpoint to the ARTFL project, Manoff highlights the Women Writers Project at Brown University, where electronic publishing was used not to reaffirm texts that were in little danger of being neglected but to bring to light texts that were in danger of being lost forever. *

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