PORT: Peirce Online Resource Testbed

PORT is many things to many people. From one perspective, it is an online resource containing the hand-written manuscripts of Charles Sanders Peirce. From another perspective, it is a testbed for the development of collaborative tools. From a third perspective, it is an experimental environment for better understanding collaboration.

This site serves two purposes: as a mirror of the Peirce manuscripts and as a experimental laboratory examining various aspects of collaboration. With regard to the first purpose, the manuscripts below represent our mirroring of these images. The tools and experiments sections below detail the work that is being performed to better understand collaborative efforts.

The Manuscripts

One of the key elements of this effort was the identification of a meaningful corpus of material that would attract scholars interested in contributing to the experiment. The manuscripts chosen for this effort were those in the Charles Sanders Peirce archive. This archive constitutes approximately 200,000 pages of material. Of course, this site will only contain a small fraction of that material, initially.

The following manuscripts are currently available online at this site:

Additional manuscripts will be added in the near future. The goal is to get approximately 200 pages of material scanned and put into the testbed. This is a sufficient quantity of material that collaboration is necessary; that enough features will be present to expose serious limations, needs, and complexities; and to provide a non-trivial quantity of information to be managed.

The Tools

These tools will use the internet to allow people from many locations to contribute to a common effort. The initial experiments concern tools for transcribing handwritten material. The following tools will be integrated into this testbed in the future: The development of the  tools 'Transview' and 'CORE' constitutes a major area of investigation on this testbed.

The Experiments

Theories concerning collaboration tend to view it from one of several different perspectives. The most common perspectives focus on teams, team dynamics, or communications. This testbed is intended to give us insight into a different perspective - information evolution and managment. In particular, the tool CORE will allow developers and users to track individual contributions during a collaboration. We can couple the specific ways in which incremental changes have occured with user feedback as to how the tools enhanced or inhibited their contribution. This coupling of contribution with feedback allows us greater insight into what is going on during a collaboration and hence will allow better understanding of the dynamics of collaboration and information management needs.

At present, one of our graduate students is examining the possible insights into collaboration that can be achieved using the CORE tool. In particular, as a contributor uses CORE, their actions will be recorded. The record will contain information concerning who is using the tool, what they are doing, and when they are doing it. The idea is that by searching these records we can gain insights into the value of the tool and what functionality is most commonly used. Her major contribution will be the identification of what events can be tracked, what they might mean, and what conclusions we can derive by looking at the total record. This work will be documented in a Master's Thesis. This thesis will be added to this site when it is completed.

Contact Information: btepfenh@moncol.monmouth.edu