Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The democracy of information

At the conferences for the Schusterman Rabbinical Fellowship, of which I am fortunate to be a part, we've talked a fair amount about the democracy of information in the current world. Anything and everything is available on the internet, and often presented cogently if you take 15 seconds to look instead of the usual 5.

ֵBecause of the internet, you can quickly know about any subject on the face of the Earth. Just a few keystrokes away.

While on a quick pass through Philly, my dad showed me this 16th c. Dutch etching/painting with three sets of Hebrew quotes written on banners (he showed me the blown-up version of the people in the lower right-hand corner). He was hoping to put the exact text in a footnote. I quickly identified them as Psalms because of their wording. One of them was easily identifiable as the beginning of Hallel HaGadol, Psalm 136, sung at the Seder to a panoply of tunes, as well as during pesukei d'zimrah. Also could have been a series of other Psalms that begin with the opening words of Psalm 136, "Hodu Lashem Ki Tov."

That they were Psalms, and one was one of the most identifiable in the 150-Psalm corpus, I knew. But identifying specific verses, using only one or two words at a time?

But I told him, not to fear, I can just type a few words into google and he'd have an answer. And sure enough, he did. Psalm 111:4-5 and Psalms 4:8-9 if you're keeping track at home.

I know, I know. I could have looked in a concordance. This was all available way before the internet. But this was so easy. So convenient. This smacks of new.

After all of this, I read through the article from the Oberlin Museum, coincidentally written by one of our closest family friends. He had also included the texts in the footnotes. And it turns out we agreed. Well done Donald.

Score another one for digital media.

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