Damian Gordon (Dublin Institute of Technology)
eBeckett: An Investigation of the Additional Dimensionality provided by an On-line Environment for Beckett Studies
This paper centres on how the World-Wide Web offers new opportunities in the range of ways that Beckett’s texts can presented through the use of highlighting and hyperlinking, to facilitate a greater, or different, understanding of these works; and that it constitutes an entirely different cultural environment than has previously existed.
This research evolved from an approach to teaching the basic operations of a computer, though the use of analogy to Krapp's Last Tape. The students were required to undertake a number of exercises to present them with an opportunity to critically review the Beckett text. The exercises included a chronological analysis, the creation of an additional scene, and an evaluation of their intrapersonal relationship with the text. All of the student's contributions were published on the Web to promote their peer-review. The exercises were developed with a number of objectives in mind. First and foremost, to afford the student an easy entry level into the Beckett’s texts and Beckett studies, secondly, to address a range of Jungian Learning Styles, and finally, to enable the students to make a contribution, albeit an elementary one, to the body of on-line Beckett studies that exists.
This approach serves as a springboard to investigate more high-level, cultural issues. It allows us to investigate the often seemingly insurmountable divide between students of the scientific disciplines and students of the Arts disciplines, and, in particular, to determine if there is any significant difference in the approach taken by students undertaking a scientific degree to Beckett criticism. Also by publishing the results of these exercises on-line this contributes to the available accessible resources. In the on-line context the term “accessibility” has a range of meanings, not only does the material become accessible in a geographical context that it permits people of diverse backgrounds and locations to instantaneously contribute to, and comment on, work being undertaken, but it is also accessible in the sense that the Web supports visually impaired or blind students through the use of computer programs that can narrate on-line texts. Thus the Web can permit a wider audience to immediately access a range of novel material related to Beckett studies.
Additionally it is important to determine if an on-line environment adds a greater dimensionality to the understanding of the texts than their paper-based equivalent, some approaches appear to be of obvious benefit, for example, by creating hyperlinks between passages of one Beckett text and another, the intertextuality of the canon can be illustrated and illuminated in a simple, direct and novel fashion, but in the broader context, are there any real or significant benefits to implementing the entire Beckett canon on-line? Finally, the most important question to address is whether or not an on-line environment can really present significant opportunities which will lead to hitherto undiscovered insights or critical approaches in the study of the works of Samuel Beckett.