Marian H. Feldman
June 22, 2017
The formation and perpetuation of intellectual canons – as consensually agreed upon corpora considered most significant and representative of a time, place or person – rely heavily on closed systems of knowledge. The bound-paper book exemplifies such a closed system and has been a primary form of constructing and disseminating canons of ancient works. The Internet, however, challenges the very structuring principles of knowledge production inherent in books, offering potentially boundless networks of unorchestrated knowledge bits. As scholars, teachers, and students turn more to the Internet for publication, research, and learning, sharply defined canons face disruption. This article analyzes some of the structuring principles of knowledge production and dissemination in the specific case of ancient Near Eastern art, first considering traditional book-based textbooks. These textbooks follow a model of linear temporal development that unfolds from the first to the last page. It then explores the academic trend toward edited, multi-authored compendia as a concurrent development with the open-ended, networked structure of the Internet. Both vehicles of knowledge production offer more diverse sets of works and multivocality; the Internet in particular permits a radical break from authored and edited narratives. Last, the article considers some of the possibilities, as well as limitations, inherent in the Internet, presenting several existing Internet-based platforms with a specific focus on pedogogy, in order to consider the implications and consequences for knowledge production and dissemination in the Digital Age.