When we were going over this in class, it seemed overwhelming. While doing it though, it ended up being far more interesting than I thought. Many of these people I hadn’t heard of. I looked for texts by title and not author, so I even unintentionally picked two texts from the same author. This was my only female author actually. The collection of this data was of course tedious, but I’ve always liked research so it was fun to learn about these people and their works. I mean, I now have the plain text versions of Ben Hur and The Three Musketeers, so if I ever have time I have something to do.
As usual when you combine me and technology, there were difficulties. First it would not let me save anything in Notepad. The culprit in that case was an asterisk in front of the .txt. I still have no idea why it was there or why I couldn’t save with it there, but when I made it go away things began to work as they were supposed to. Things did not stay that way. When I got to saving the plain text of The Three Musketeers, I was again denied the right to save. This time, thankfully, I was given an error message. I did not understand it, but I appreciated the thought. The solution ended up being saving it with a different encoding. Again as before, I have no idea why that worked or what it does. It did work though, so that is good enough for me.
On a larger scale, literary data is tricky for researchers, but maybe not on the same level. All of my text are from the 1800s. This is great if your emphasis is on 18th century literature, but not everyone has this emphasis. The problem is this little thing called copyright law. Yes, the same thing that prevents you from using that random picture on Google Images rears its ugly head here. After 1923, most things are protected. This means that places like Project Gutenberg cannot collect and distribute them. An individual could manually scan and encode texts for his/herself to study, but noone else can use it. Noone else could check your work or study the same things unless they go to the same outlandish lengths that you did. This is not just tedious, it is impractical.
We can’t read everything. We don’t have either the time or the resources. As Jockers says, this is “an important and necessary way of contextualizing our study of individual works of literature” ( 171). Since we can’t read everything, and since the world is becoming increasingly digital, being able to store it as data to study would be extremely helpful. I understand that as a commercial idea, it is problematic. There needs to some kind of educational exception, a database for only research and educational use. Anyone who misuses it would be severely punished. After all, if one person messes up, you punish the one and not the whole group right?