The occasion of the 100th feature of SyndicateMizzou is marked with both celebration and sorrow. Celebration because this publication now proudly has shared the work of over 100 members of the MU community; sorrow because the creator of SyndicateMizzou, John Miles Foley, is not here today to celebrate. Dr. Foley, who founded both the The Center for eResearch and the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition, passed away in May of 2012. We continue our work in the spirit of Dr. Foley’s vision. Professor John Zemke has stepped into the role of Director of the Center for eResearch, and with his guidance we continue our mission of featuring the research and creative activities on the campus of MU.
Ever since the third grade, when an assistant principal generously offered to teach him and two classmates French, John Miles Foley has been curious about how languages work. Starting with the early epiphany that language is always embedded in culture, Foley followed this line of thinking until it led to oral tradition, which the MU Professor of Classical Studies and English has now been researching for over three decades. It will surely be a lifelong journey, for the field far outstrips written literature in size, diversity, and social function. In fact, all the written literature we have, Foley is fond of saying, “is dwarfed by oral traditions.”
The idea for SyndicateMizzou, if I recall the story correctly, arose during a lunch conversation involving two Center for eResearch personnel, founding director John Miles Foley and Information Technology Manager Jamie Stephens, shortly after the center was born in April 2005. “Wouldn’t it be great,” remarked the latter, “if there were a website that could syndicate diverse content, be fully searchable, and bring MU’s innovation, accomplishment, and expertise to the rest of the world?” It was initially over soup and sandwiches that this conversation grew into a conception of SyndicateMizzou—a website created to document and promote research and creative activity at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In fact, the trajectory from idea to reality provides a worthy case study for imagining and executing an online project.
The Pathways Project explores the comparison between OT (oral tradition) and IT (Internet technology), showing the similarities between these two network-based modes of navigation. When it’s finished, there will be a paper book, Pathways of the Mind, as well as a website. The two methods of navigating through networks—oral tradition and the web—mimic the very way we think.
John Miles Foley explains how the two centers—the Center for the Studies in Oral Tradition (est. 1986) and the newer Center for eResearch—are cooperative ventures: “All of our activities at both centers have in common the philosophy of sharing intellectual content (knowledge, art, ideas) across barriers…to make it as easy as possible for everyone in the world to participate.”