Beat Poets

1. Preliminary Abstract:
Beatitude is a project devoted to bring scholars and non-scholars alike into the world of the Beats by using transcription, interactivity, and media alike. Everyone will be able to search the Beats and find out who they really were by reading their works, following their travels, and looking at the drugs that served as an influence. Visitors to the site will have the opportunity to follow a blog by the creators of the site and put in their own opinion through a forum. Media would be incorporated into the wiki through pictures, audio, and video to show a true insight into the Beats. Users will be able to transcribe the wealth of Beat and Beat related works and truly play a role in moving this site forward. The transcription will follow the TEI:P5 guidelines and be done in XML. Following in the spirit of the Beats, this site will be under creative commons and the information shared as long as they site where the information came from. The site will fall within a crowdsourcing environment, but moderation will be carried out by the creators initially and later by other chosen officials. The Beats were a widely influential group of writers that we hope to bring into a greater light and to become a better understood culture.

2. Project Overview:
For the project we bring in anything and everything that relates to the Beats and help all of our stakeholders to better understand the Beats. First, our site would be based off of a Wiki. When the users come to the site for the first time they would have an introductory video which would describe the site and show all the uses and features. It would be further expanded to show how to use specific parts of the site and help in the transcription of the manuals. Once the user gets past the introductory video they would have the option to go to many places in the site. There would be biographies of the Beats, a section on popular drugs used by the Beats, an interactive timeline, and a map with all the traveling routes and meeting places for many of the background information. We would include an area with the manuscripts and the transcriptions. Pertaining to that area, there would be transcription guidelines, tools, and descriptions of how to do the transcribing. Also in this area there would be concordances and text analysis of the works. We would have different print editions available and a publication timeline for the transcription. Any interviews and articles related to the Beats would be included along with a media page with any videos or audio clips. A discussion forum would be open for anyone. Multiple sections would be available devoted to acknowledgements of contributors, a timeline for the project itself, a blog, and an RSS feed. Being that large portions of our site are wiki-based, crowdsourcing would be utilized in transcription, biographies, drug pages, and user polls and feedback.
3. Research Goal and Objectives:
With all that this site has to offer, it must first draw on a set of goals and objectives to set forth to direct academic research and production.These goals must not only coincide with those set forth in academia, but in digital humanities as well. The prime objective of beatitude.org is to offer an online source for collaboration and study of the beat era poets. It is to be accessible to those scholars interested in the beat era poems, as well as those with just a rudimentary understanding of the beats. The site intends to offer access to ways to communicate with others who are interested in the beats, including a fully functional online forum. The site intends to be the prime source for all things beat related, a place that is largely community driven, and focused on the academic values of the beats and their history. The beats generation has been so influential in modern literature that the fact that this type of website has not been created before is an insult. In true fashion of Digital Humanities we wish to allow this site to be as open source as possible, sharing with those that visit and use the site as much information as we can as to how it is created and run. We also wish to take advantage of as much open source software that is available to run the site.
4.  Project Deliverables:
a. The Meet the Beats page will display pictures of members of the Beat Generation.  Clicking on one of these images will redirect users to a biography page.  All biography pages will be functioning wikis, taking full advantage of their crowdsourcing possibilities: users will add information and the scholars/we will be responsible for its close moderation and fact checking.  Calling them biographies, however, is somewhat misleading.  These pages will be something akin to a Wikipedia article; in addition to typical biographical information, these pages will include all known works and collaborations by the author/poet and their influences, both human and chemical. Each of these sections would contain links to corresponding pages on our site – manuscripts, other biography pages, the interactive timeline, and the drug page – in order to place further emphasis on the interrelatedness of our site’s content.
b. The Interactive Map feature is a multifaceted visualization tool with the potential to provide users with a different experience each time they use it.  Powered by GoogleMaps, this component of our website aims to foster a broader understanding of the Beat Generation’s influence between its individual members, the literary scene, and popular culture.  Situated below the map are various fields that may be checked off for further exploration.  A person interacting with this feature could choose from a list of authors/poets, places (states, cities), dates (by year), and even major historical events that the Beats were involved in.  Each time a box is checked, tags would appear on the map that could be scrolled over to reveal more information, a picture, video, or link to another portion of our site.  For example, if you checked Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs from the authors column and New York from the places column, the map would situate itself on New York, revealing a web of individual and collaborative activity from these authors in the state of New York.  The places where their individual paths overlapped would provide visual insight into how and where Kerouac and Burroughs met and when they worked on an early collaborative novel And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks, which was only recently published in 2008.  Users can make the map as broad or specific as they like, depending on what they’re looking for.  A person who has only recently discovered the Beat Generation may want to follow one or two authors at a time or the Beat activity in just one city.  On the other hand, a scholar may want to focus on Allen Ginsberg’s influence on the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, so he or she would more likely utilize the author, place, and date columns in their search.
c. Our concept for the Manuscripts page was inspired by several sites we have examined in class this semester (Van Gogh Letters, Transcribing Bentham, Austen Archives).  Depicted in our website is only a sample page from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  Naturally, there will be a Manuscripts Home page, where you can search for a manuscript by author or title.  Once selected, we envision the manuscript page to appear with three columns: the facsimile, the transcription, and the human-readable text.  Transcription will be crowdsourced in much the same manner as Transcribe Bentham; that is, all you need to do is create a username.  Before transcribing, users will be directed to our Guidelines page, which will provide information on our preferred markup language (XML TEI: P5).  If someone were using our Manuscripts page to do research, there are a couple additional features that will facilitate their desire to learn.  Much of Beat literature is filled with references to other members of the Beat Movement, using both real names and pseudonyms.  To alleviate any confusion this may cause, these names will link to their corresponding biographies (as discussed in Meet the Beats).  Names of important places, events, and drugs will also be linked to the appropriate portions of our site, so that nothing in the text is left to question.  Since there are so many famous readings that have been recorded by the Beats, we will also have audio files (file type: ogg vorbis) for select works.  So not only can you view three different versions of the same text, but you may also hear the author’s own voice reading and reacting to their own work.
d. Drugs played a large role throughout the Beat movement and in many of the works of the Beat poets therefore we felt that the web page should contain a section solely dedicated to the different drugs that were used.  The main page of the drugs tab would contain a link to the wiki for each drug used that would summarize its chemical effects in the body.  This wiki page would also show a picture of the drugs along with its other uses. Many of the drugs that were used have a very long half-life which means they do not degrade over time. One of our goals would be to test the works for drug content if the author never made any comment pertaining to if they used drugs when constructing the work.  Unfortunately some of these methods would involve damage to the documents depending on the type of drug being tested. This is one area in which the blog on the drug page would come into play.  Chemists who have an interest in the beat movement could provide suggestions on how to test for drugs or possibly suggest new methods to test for the drugs that would not risk damage to the original document.  Another purpose for the blog would be to allow users to anonymously post experiences they had while taking the drugs so that all users would gain a new perspective for the beats works. The main page would also contain a map that showed the results of this testing and any relationship between the drugs and authors, written works, presentations, etc so that users could track and comment on the manners in which the drugs were used.
The main drugs that were used during the movement (listed in order of decreasing popularity) were alcohol, marijuana, benzedrine (racemic mixture of amphetamine), opiates (morphine), LSD, and Peyote.  Drugs such as alcohol and marijuana would be difficult to test for due to the volatility of alcohol and the sold nature of marijuana.  The primary drugs that could be tested for would have to be in some sort of liquid form that would dry on to the paper.  Pieces of the paper that did not contain writing could then be placed in an organic solvent and analyzed by Gas chromatography and possibly by mass spectrometry, atomic absorption, high pressure liquid chromatography and others.  These testing methods would also have wiki pages describing their uses and how they function.  As stated before we would like to work simultaneously with some analytical chemists to develop methods for testing drugs that are not liquid in nature.
e. The Newsbeats page will be a regularly updated blog about current Beat-related news.  Posts will be added to the blog as we learn about things such as a new edition of a Beat work, upcoming film adaptations, television specials, Beat events or gatherings (Gary Snyder still gives readings), and magazine articles about or pertaining to the Beats.  All post will be added by users with administrator privileges; however, users will be able to send links or posts directly to the admins if they find something of interest and/or relevance.  The admins will then review the posts and decide if the posts are page worthy.  Users will be able to comment on these posts and share them on various social networking sites (such as Facebook and Twitter).
f. The Community Forum page aims to be a centralized web space promoting purely intellectual discussion of all aspects of Beat culture.  The same theory of moderation from the biography pages applies to the forum: it is our goal to keep Beatitude free of spam, non-intellectual arguments, and the like.  On our sample website, we have included two examples of threads that would undoubtedly be booted from the forum. Perhaps the strongest of the website’s collaborative aspects is its community forum. The forum is powered by Vanilla Forum software. This is an open-source, free software project. It allows for easy use, community driven forums. One key feature of Vanilla is that it can allow users to link their forum account to social network sites such as Facebook. The software also allows users to connect to the forums via a mobile device like a cell phone or netbook. Finally, the software allows users to upload files directly to their forum post, allowing for the sharing of mp3s, wmvs, and other file types. This is all done in addition to a very streamlined and efficient forum system. Vanilla allows the for the addition of a forum voting system, allowing users to rank others posts, giving credit to well thought out posts. The system will initially be moderated by those in charge of the website, but as the site grows it is the wish of the creators to give moderator abilities to select top-tier users. The forums will be divided into categories to allow users to keep on topic, allowing areas for serious discussion, others for their own poetry, and an off-topic forum to help keep the main forums more focused.
g. Finally, the Media page will provide users with an opportunity to see and hear the Beats in action: reading selected works, doing interviews, and interacting with one another.  As previously noted, these videos will also be linked and/or embedded in other parts of our website in order to help users attain more extensive knowledge of Beat literature, emphasizing again the purpose of the Beatitude site: to facilitate intellectual and scholarly research into Beat literature.

5. Project Stakeholders:
The stakeholders for the beat poetry website include people of all ages.  Scholars and other individuals with a large desire to study the beats would be the primary stakeholders, however we would like to give everyone the opportunity to learn about this time period and style of writing.  Applications like maps, XML editing, concordances, and text analysis would be provided for the people who would like to become highly involved in the project and have more experience in the field.  All of these applications would still be designed such that individuals with little to no experience could still use them.  In addition, videos would be provided to help people navigate the site and learn how to use the applications.  Students and other people who want more of a generic background could visit the wiki pages that are set up as links within the website.  Certainly there is a large amount of information that can be studied but our overall goal is to inform a large amount of people to increase the interest on the topic in addition to furthering the studies done on beat poetry.
6. Methodology:
The transcription will be done using XML and following the TEI: P5 guidelines. The pictures will be put in JPEG format, the videos will be embedded in the site or links given, and the audio will be in MP3 format. An email (or more than one) will be embedded in the site for direct access to the creators/moderators.All of the dreams of beatitude are wonderful, but they are all limited to the technology available. The goals of this site are all plausible with easily accessible software. It is the wishes of the creators of this site to encourage collaboration and further understandings in digital humanities and feel that the best way is to do as much as possible with open source software. This encourages others to use this site as a guide when creating new sites, either to learn from the mistakes or to copy the strengths. They also wish to allow for the site to be as transparent as possible, that is to say allow outsiders to see what is being done behind the scenes. With that said, the wiki aspect of the site will be hosted freely on wiki.com. This will allow for a free and easily accessible wiki that will easily handle any traffic associated with it. The pictures will be hosted on the site in JPEG format to allow for easy access to all, it will be hosted by the open source image hosting script known as cheverto. Videos will be embedded on the website, or URL’s will be given. This will be hosted by youtube.com. The chat and forum functions will be supported by the open source software known as vanilla. This open source system allows for the download of addons, so that additions can be made by the creators of the site as it progresses. Feedback from users will be given and then an embedded email will be sent to a creator based email service. To better serve the users of the site, google analytics will be used to monitor the website, allowing notice of increases in activity and to see what aspects of the site is being used the most and what needs the most improvement. An RSS feed will be attached to the site as well as a the creation of a twitter account allowing users to follow the creators. Not only will open source software allow for easier imitation in DH, it will also reduce the amount of funds needed for the technical aspects of the site. These funds can be directed elsewhere, such as the acquisition of manuscripts, website maintenance, and Internet support.
7. Working Bibliography:

http://www.tei-c.org/Guidelines/P5/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_Generation

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1580482/New-Jack-Kerouac-book-to-be-pub lished.html
http://www.kerouac.com/homepage.htm

http://www.ontheroad.org/

http://books.google.com/books?id=aVskh9hHNzwC&lpg=PP1&ots=E6AzibUIL2&dq=on

20the%20road%20manuscript&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=on%20the%20road%20 manuscript&f=false

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