Friday, October 19, 2007

Seeking understanding and clarity

It is often the case that when examining a complex area, we try to subsume the complexity under various concepts, categories, or types into an organizing schema. In the old paradigm of system development, there was a lot of handwaving on the idea of top-down versus bottom-up. The problem was - where is the top? When we moved away from this vague idea, we discovered object orientation and class structures, yet even here, what are the right classes and when and where should they be used are still difficult questions. So also the categorization of data elements and attributes remain a continuing challenge.

With the Psalms, is there an organizing principle? Felix Just has a nice set of tables here that shows some of what the psalms tell us about themselves. On the bottom right corner is a column summarizing genre - according to 'modern scholars'. This is fine as far as it goes - but where is it going? I find it fascinating that when I was younger, I could divide the hymn book I grew up with into its table of contents easily - and it had more than 800 hymns. Many of them I knew from memory by number and by text. (I also knew the 'empty' sections of the book since in the bias of my time, we never used those hymns - was it the music or the theology?)

Why is it so hard to divide up the psalms? The Church year, the Festivals of Judaism, and so on are other organizing principles that we have used or could use. Recognizing that I am only 70% through my first draft, but searching for the top, and open to the idea that 'class' might be a viable concept, I am spending some time (target by January) in developing a navigation schema for the Psalms. I have made a few stabs at it - but it will not yield easily. Ideas welcome. (This is somewhat linked to the idea of an image of canon that I noted here.)

I recognize that my images are a cumbersome way of publishing. We are working out newer ways for making 'briefing books' for diagrams and by the end of this project (2008-2009), I hope to have various combinations of database and image and navigation that do not require the download of quite such large jpegs.

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