- Digitizing Shaw: The Magic of High-Speed Interactive Platforms
Private, high-speed interactive digital platforms are revolutionizing the digitizing of literature in general, and the Sagittarius ORION–Bernard Shaw Digitizing Project (“Sagittarius,” for short) is doing this for the works of Bernard Shaw in particular, thanks to its approach to copyright restrictions, its use of new forms of online research networks, and its development of new levels of cross-cultural encounters and new means of collaboration between scholars and publishers.1
In 2009, Sagittarius created a new digital interactive environment using the ultra-high-speed fiber-optic network provided by Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION); see http://shaw.yorku.ca. The research partners involved are the International Shaw Society (ISS), ORION, the Shaw Festival, the Shaw Estate, and the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies/Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York University, Ontario. The advisory board consists of ISS president Leonard Conolly (Trent University), past president Richard Dietrich (University of South Florida), Christopher Innes (LA&PS, York University), project leader Kay Li (LA&PS, York University), Suzanne Merriam (Shaw Festival), and Stanley Weintraub (Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus, Penn State University).
While literature websites proliferate, few are carried by powerful high-speed optical research networks such as Sagittarius. Charles K. Kao, a 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics, concluded his Nobel lecture, entitled “Sand from Centuries Past; Send Future Voices Fast,” as follows: “The worldwide communication network based on optical fibers has truly shrunk the world and brought human beings closer together.... The next generation will learn and grow up differently; people will relate to one [End Page 207] another in different ways.”2 Kao is the “father of optical fibers” and those he discovered are the foundation of the World Wide Web.
Sagittarius also uses high-speed optical fibers to mine huge amounts of data quickly and efficiently, and the Internet to combine disparate elements and create connections between them. In March 1989, English physicist Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal on an information management system, which he developed with help from Robert Cailliau into a 1990 proposal to build a Hypertext project called the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee explains at the beginning of Weaving the Web (1999) how “inventing the World Wide Web involved my growing realization that there was a power in arranging ideas in an unconstrained, weblike way.... The Web arose as the answer to an open challenge, through the swirling together of influences, ideas, and realizations from many sides, until, by the wondrous offices of the human mind, a new concept jelled. It was a process of accretion, not the linear solving of one well-defined problem after another.”3 Since the 1990s, websites have grown exponentially, and much literature, especially works out of copyright, is now available online.
One important development of the Web has been the creation of private high-speed digital platforms. One of these is ORION, an optical network dedicated to supporting research and education that is one hundred to one thousand times faster than high-speed Internet. ORION provides virtually unlimited, unconstrained bandwidth, tools, and capabilities not generally available or affordable commercially. It also offers optical wavelength capacities at 10 gigabits per second, scalable to 320 gigabits per second capacity.4
Sagittarius utilizes three features of ORION: restricted access (it is a private network), the capacity to convey huge data sets, and the ability to create virtual classrooms. Specific materials in the Sagittarius pilot project include annotated texts, an annotated bibliography, contextual materials, reference materials, contemporary reviews, a curriculum, quizzes and activities, custom-made videos, a concordance, a search engine, and YouTube videos. In 2009, we focused on the two Shaw plays staged at the 2009 Shaw Festival, The Devil’s Disciple and “In Good King Charles’s Golden Days,” and have provided both play texts and contextual materials. In 2010, we added the two plays featured at the 2010 Shaw Festival, John Bull’s Other Island and The Doctor’s Dilemma. Moreover, thanks to grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, we will now be able to expand the project by adding public outreach...