Half-Life Research

Inside Higher Ed  [www.insidehighered.com]

Such Stuff as
Footnotes Are Made On

I am among the few professors who can identify a corrupt Shakespearean manuscript — an inferior facsimile of Hamlet, say, that an Elizabethan actor recited to a printer in return for a beaker of ale. I would compare that manuscript to another version closer to the original, detecting phrases and locutions that better embody the Bard’s verbal genius.

Shakespeare never published his plays, of course. But some actors were better at remembering lines than others. Thus, several variants of a given work might exist. A good textual editor can discern which versions are “fairer,” or more authentic, than others more “foul” or corrupt.

I have been thinking about Shakespeare, born April 23, 1564, and died on that same date, at age 52. I’m age 52. By what measure will I be remembered by the digital literati with a research specialty like mine, seemingly worthless at the dawn of the Internet age?

Perhaps not totally. A few years ago at a university where I used to work a colleague was sending anonymous libelous memos, which I analyzed the way I used to review passages from plays. You see, over time, each of us develops a distinct textual signature. We may be given to odd phrases, locutions and colloquialisms, such as “in regards to” or “clearly, it seems” or “in cahoots with,” as in, “In regards to his annual review, clearly, it seems, John Doe is in cahoots with the Dean.” Collect enough writing samples, and you can identify the likely source of such a sentence, just as you can discern a fair from foul excerpt of a Shakespearean play. ... 

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The Five "W's" and "H" of the Half-Life Phenomenon
Where we began | What happens to footnotes? | What is the "half-life"? | When is the "half-life"? | Why does it matter? | How to correct
        As reported in ...
                            The Chronicle of Higher Education
                                                        and other leading journals


Published by Litwin Press
Research Objectives
While the phenomenon of linkrot has been known for years, and a relative few studies previously addressed the erosion of footnotes, the research of Drs. Michael Bugeja and Daniela Dimitrova has distinct goals, which set their work apart from others:
  • They are focusing on journalism and communication, the fields responsible for the diffusion of technology in society.
  • They have developed a methodology to measure the half-life so that journal editors can monitor use of online citations and determine whether their half-life is increasing or decaying at ever faster rates.
  • They not only document that the phenomenon occurs; they also recommend specific ways to counteract the effect.
  • They are the first to associate the possible end of the printing press era, upon which current research methodology is based, with footnote decay and scientific method.

Short Bio of Michael Bugeja | Short Bio of Daniela Dimitrova | Picture of Drs. Bugeja and Dimitrova

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