PORT: A Testbed Paradigm for On-line Digital Archive Development


Mary Keeler and Leroy Searle

Center for the Humanities, University of Washington


Christian Kloesel

Indiana University – Purdue University




The Peirce On-line Resource Testbed (PORT) is a digital resource of primary data: C.S. Pierce'’s manuscripts, arcived in the Houghtn Library at Harvard, which have remained largely and essentially inaccessible for 80 years. Building upon this "raw data" archive (as digitized page images, transcribe text, and indexed links), we have the opportunity to use network communication support facilities for increase the contributions of scholars and researches in a continuing resource development testbed. Conceptually, Peirce'’s pragmatic philosophy encourages us to treat this form of communication logically, as a continuing argument, with premises, conclusion, and an account of the interpretational procedure by which results are interpreted from the evidence. But Peirce’s pragmatism also cautions: judgment should proceed heuristically – not algorithmically (maintained by permanent authority or habit of mind). The conceptual basis for judgment established by any group of inquirer may, at any time, be mistaken. With inquiry conceived as an ongoing, sophisticated communicational challenge, the collective "editorial role" in this procedure must stabilize collective inquiry by tracking the possible directions it might be taking with respect to the manuscript evidence to construct a meta-representation (a sort of conceptual map of collective self-reflection) of all individual contributions – without determining its results. As Peirce might say, to keep the matter of inquiry ("texts") or mediational products) from becoming the hide-bound substitute for the continuity (growth) of mind. In testbed operation, we can explicate, examine, and improve this procedure , to identify how digital technology might truly augment the process, without expecting ever to build an algorithm for its execution. Knowledge processing researches (who base their work on Peirce'’s graphical logic notation) are working with us to develop PORT as a testbed for knowledge processing tool development and, eventually, for access to (and continued investigation of) his philosophical insights.