From: Doug Ewell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Sep 25 2004 - 12:50:41 CDT
Philippe Verdy <verdy underscore p at wanadoo dot fr> wrote:
> Once again, many problems would be avoided if meetings were more open
> to discussions, and each proposal evaluated orally. Shorthand
> scripting would help people take precise notes, and produce later a
> better document whose content would be easier to agree upon by
> participants. Shorthand skills is still a precious thing for anyone
> that participate to many work meetings or brain-stormings. It would be
> useful also when negociating commercial contracts, or to accelerate
> those meetings (without needing to wait that everyone has finished
> taking his notes), notably during stressed situations where lots of
> things are discussed and many things forgotten before their
> application (people's memory can fail). More generally, shorthand
> skills by participants avoids much unuseful papers produced before and
> after meetings.
Philippe makes an excellent case for the continued use and teaching of
shorthand, but none of his arguments really demonstrates why shorthand
should be encoded in a standard character encoding such as Unicode.
There is no question that major corporations and small businesses alike
relied heavily on shorthand before the advent of machine-assisted
transcription, and many would benefit greatly from continuing to use it.
(Are stenographic machines or computerized equivalents really in common
use at ordinary companies for taking meeting minutes?) But no matter
how useful shorthand may be, in the business community and elsewhere, it
is generally considered necessary to transcribe it into a conventional
script (Latin or whatever) before it can be used in business contracts,
meeting minutes, and so forth. Encoding shorthand in a character-level
encoding standard doesn't buy you much here; you still need to
transcribe the (encoded) shorthand into Latin letters before it can be
Having a character encoding for shorthand kind of defeats the purpose of
performing paleographic analysis on handwritten shorthand, because in
order to encode, say, a Pitman or Gregg "d"' you must have already
identified it as a "d". An encoding that described shorthand strokes in
terms of length and direction (sort of like dance notation) might be
more useful for this.
There does not seem to be a demonstrated need to *interchange* shorthand
text from one computer system to another. That appears to be one factor
that determines whether encoding is justified or not.
As for the renewed interest in teaching shorthand, either on-line or in
person, I don't see where a Unicode encoding of shorthand would provide
much of an advantage over continuing to use images or custom font hacks.
Potential users of a Unicode shorthand encoding would still be
restricted to the few fonts that would be designed to support the
shorthand characters, just as if the glyphs were encoded with ASCII
hacks. The supposed benefit of being able to choose from a variety of
fonts seems unlikely to pan out.
If there were books and periodicals printed in shorthand -- other than
materials for teaching and practicing shorthand -- then there might be a
better case for treating it as a script like Latin or Arabic and trying
to get it encoded.
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