Posted by: Clive | August 26, 2008

Blogging from the past

‘George Orwell would have been a blogger’ according to Jean Seaton, a professor at the University of Westminster in London who administers the Orwell writing prize and thought up the idea of creating daily blog posts from Orwell’s diary. It’s a great idea. Orwell is one of my favourite writers and reading an entry a day is a great addition to my reading diet.

Turning famous diarists into posthumous bloggers is not new. The most famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, has been in the blogosphere since 2003. The Diary of Samuel Pepys is proving popular. In the last month alone there were 25,378 unique visitors; not bad for a seventeenth century diarist.

Apart from the advantage of daily nuggets published on these blogs, the digitisation of diaries has a number of advantages. We can search the archive, filter information according to various criteria, annotate the entries, and link ideas to other documents. But perhaps the most potentially significant advantage is that we can begin to mashup data from the diary with other data sources. This is just beginning. For example the Diary of Samuel Pepys mixes data from the diary with dynamic maps. They allow you to, for example, see all the churches in London Pepys has mentioned in one glance. Or London streets, or places outside Britain, and more.

We going to get more of this kind of deep cross-referencing that can only add to a reader’s understanding and pleasure. I wonder if it is going to make the print version seem almost unidimensional and incomplete in comparison?

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