Robert McNamee

Architect and now Director of the Electronic Enlightenment Project, McNamee first read astrophysics — when using computers meant punch-cards and paper tape and computer images were wave patterns on oscilloscopes! McNamee later returned to university to read for a BA and MA in Medieval English and Italian (UBC), and a DPhil (Oxford) on the sociology of texts working with the outstanding bibliographer and textual scholar Don F. McKenzie.

Long interested in the possibilities of associating texts and computers, McNamee worked on several early projects in the digital humanities, including medieval and modern literature. Appointed head of digital R & D at the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford (1995), he worked on creation of an SGML version of the massive Œuvres complete de Voltaire. During this time, he began exploring the parallels between historical correspondence networks and the Web (then just invented). The result was development of EE’s scholarly-technology for reconnecting “the world’s first global, social network”. Six Mellon Foundation grants supported the necessary technical and textual R&D, as well as development of a self-sustaining model for the ongoing research project. The resource, Electronic Enlightenment, is now distributed world-wide through Oxford University Press.

A note on ee

Abstract: The Electronic Enlightenment Project is built on a simple premise: that the correspondence networks of the pre-digital age are paradigms of social networking and connectedness. Inevitably, print publication paralyzes that spatial, temporal and intellectual dynamic. EE seeks to reinvigorate the exchange: letting historical figures once again “talk to each other” — and thereby allowing us to interact with the conversation — within an increasingly complex and complete historical environment. At least in part, this is a realization of Tim Berners-Lee’s dream for the World Wide Web. Everyone and everything (from objects, to locations, to quotations), on a principle of universal equivalence, existing as a point, moment or pathway of exchange.

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