Mead Project 2.0
Welcome to the October 2007 edition of the Mead Project.
We would like to thank everyone who complained about the look and feel of the old site over the past year or so. We wanted to ignore you, but your criticisms were valid. Except for minor (and usually ill-considered) cosmetic changes, nothing had really changed since we first mounted the site more than a decade ago. That meant that we had not taken advantage of developments in Web technologies since the mid-1990s.
So we spent a few days learning about cascading style sheets and "code validators," and invested most of the summer in the redesign and reconstruction of the site, bringing it up to W3C's standards, cleaning out more than 300,000 compliance issues and errors — tedious work but we hope that you think it was worth the effort. Most of the site has been tested against three of the "big four:" Internet Explorer™ Firefox™ and Opera.™ We are still testing Safari.™ We are a little PC-centric and didn't know that Apple had a Window's version of the browser until mid-October.But once again, if you have problems, let us know.
Despite the structural revisions, we assure you that an abundance of content errors remain. That's both a warning and a request for your assistance. When you run across something that looks wrong or just plain strange, send us a note. We will try to correct it in a more expeditious manner than has been the case in the past.
What has changed
Probably the most obvious change is our use of cascading style sheets (CSS). Every moment invested in learning the basics of CSS has paid off. While encouraging simplicity, style sheets allow for easy experimentation and encourage a playfulness that otherwise you might not entertain. Admittedly, in our case the result is an even more boring design. We have given up any pretense to being clever or creative. After a bit of playing around, we borrowed the "new look" from the old "reprint series" that were ubiquitous when we were students. The design worked for print, we think it works for the web. What it lacks in inspiration, it has gained in simplicity.
More importantly, the two-panel design has made it easier to add in material that we always intended to add but hadn't taken the time to put together: the "Related Documents" section. So far, we have tied together only a handful of documents but that should change over the next year. The same is true of the "Editors' Note" section. We hope to give you a better hint to why each document appears as part of the site.
In the course of revision, the cutesy names once used for sections of the site dedicated to particular writers (Baldwin, Dewey, Cooley, James, Mead, Sherif, and Veblen) have disappeared. When the longer names used for the other sites didn't fit into the design we dumped them, opting instead for a simpler structure. Part of that change we regret. We were always fond of the name George's Page. Over the years we had taken a lot of flack from scholars. But for us, it evoked the informality and usefulness that the World Wide Web was conceived to support. Those early days are long gone and the Web has become an integral part of education. It was time to put away childish things, so we did.
What has been added
Over the past five years, active work on the Project has shifted focus from Mead to those related to Mead's work. We have started with two important contributors to Social Psychology: William Isaac Thomas and Floyd Henry Allport. Over the years, both men have acquire an heroic stature. Much of that reputation has been based on often-repeated stories and undocumented assertions about their work. In both cases, their contributions were important but, we believe, misunderstood. Untangling the myths from documentable realities has proven to be a great hobby, but it has consumed time we should have been investing in the site.
To merge that work into the site, we have added research notes we put together to understand the context of their work. Like this page, they typically bear the heading "A Mead Project reference page." The majority of the notes focus on aspects of Thomas's career, many documenting what appear to be only tangentially related issues, but other scholars may find them useful.
The same work has also taken us into newspaper archives, particularly the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. There are now hundreds of newspaper stories included in the site. A lot of the material may look unrelated to Social Psychology, but it is related to careers of Thomas or Allport. Again, our hope is that other readers will find the material useful.
The new material has blurred any focus that the Inventory page may once have given the Project. We began assembling pages of links that pull together subsections of the material, electronic scrapbooks with brief notes. The notes have grown into essays. We are sure that the first set will seem entirely tangential to Social Psychology. We wanted to start with the easiest bits. Bear with us, the link to the Project's goals will become more evident as more appear.
The essays haven't been run through a peer review process. That seems unfair. At points the notes are critical of published work and it would be impolite (arrogant?) not to invite others to comment on what we have put out there for anyone to read. We encourage readers to send their comments to us as email. For the foreseeable future, we will link any signed remarks to the page so that readers are aware of divergent interpretations. We hope to move the Scrapbook pages into a context will allow readers to attach their responses to our ideas directly. But until that time, we will include them as part of the scrapbook page itself.
The Result of the Additions
The shift in focus has changed the nature of the Project in a way which we hadn't expected and didn't really notice until this revision. Back in the late 1980s, we started the project as a "work around" for a situation that we found personally frustrating. We believed that widely-held beliefs about Mead's ideas were misinterpretations. But his published statements were often difficult to obtain. It was easier for scholars to rely from the secondary literature about Mead than to consult primary sources. As a result, those frustrating misinterpretations persisted. Our solution: republish as much of Mead as possible in machine-readable form to make distribution, familiarity, and study easier. When the Web was established, we abandon plans for a CD and prepared the documents for the new medium. George's Page was born.
When we restricted our work to Mead, we constrained "editorial license" by striving for completeness. If Mead wrote it, we have tried to publish it. Some documents continue to evade our best efforts, but it remains the most complete collection of Mead's writing available. As we added material by other writers, we made a conscious decision not to follow the same path with everyone. We are fast approaching 4,000 source document web-pages and documents by others writers far outnumber those by Mead.
That change is particularly obvious in the clipping and reference pages. More than any other set of pages, those new source documents make the Project look far more "scattershot." That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has become far more personal. That is especially evident in the Scrapbook pages. We don't apologize for the change but readers should be warned that as a collection it undoubtedly has lacunae, the "blind spots" in our perspective.
"Promises to Keep"
Finally, although you will find references to several scrapbook pages, only a few of the scrapbook pages are ready for circulation. The missing pages should appear intend another update completing the "Thomas cycle" in December 2007, and another documenting the "Allport cycle" in June of 2008. Luther Lee Bernard and Jacob Robert Kantor will follow, then Louis Thurstone and Herbert Blumer. We will attempt to keep things balance between the sociological and psychological streams.