The Commens Digital Companion provides resources and tools for students and scholars of Charles S. Peirce, the seminal American philosopher and scientist. Commens contains a new type of on-line publication platform, consisting of a unique quotation dictionary, an encyclopedia of original research articles, a new working papers series, and a bibliographical database. Commens also publishes news pertaining to Peirce research and related fields of inquiry. For more details, please consult the introduction below.
The Commens Digital Companion was born in 2012-14, when the Helsinki-based Commens site, designed by Mats Bergman and Sami Paavola, merged with the Brazilian Digital Encyclopedia of Charles S. Peirce, founded by João Queiroz. The new international Companion brought together two established on-line resources of Peirce research – the Commens Dictionary and the Digital Encyclopedia – and added new tools, such as a news service and a bibliography. The alpha version of Commens was launched on the 10th of September, 2013; a beta version was made available for public testing in January, 2014. The first official version of the Commens Digital Companion was published on the 31st of May in the centennial year of 2014.
The Original Commens
Commens was originally developed as a Finnish Peirce studies website by Mats Bergman and Sami Paavola. It functioned as the web site for the Helsinki Metaphysical Club, and offered resources for students and researchers in both Finnish and English. The original Commens was opened in February, 2001. In 2003, Bergman and Paavola introduced the Commens Dictionary of Peirce’s Terms, a dictionary of Peircean terminology built from original Peirce quotes. The Dictionary proved to be the most successful part of Commens; together with the Digital Encyclopedia, the Dictionary forms the backbone of the new Digital Companion. More than 700 quotes were transferred from the old Dictionary to the the new platform.
The Original Encyclopedia
Edited by João Queiroz and Ricardo Gudwin, The Digital Encyclopedia of Charles S. Peirce was the first on-line encyclopedia to bring together the most recent work on Peirce and work inspired by his thought in several fields of research, including philosophy, logic and mathematics, psychology, ethology, anthropology, sociology, communication, aesthetics, literature and art Studies, theoretical biology, philosophy of science, the cognitive sciences, and artificial Intelligence. The Encyclopedia was a new kind of reference work, taking advantage of the dynamic potential of the Internet. The original Encyclopedia Project was supported by FAPESP, grant 97/06018-4.
Why ‘Commens’? Why a ‘Digital Companion’?
Peirce introduced the concept of the ‘commens’ or ‘commind’ in his correspondence with Victoria Lady Welby in 1906 (see original quote in the Commens Dictionary and the original letter page). Although a rare and partly obscure neologism, the term has proven to be both suggestive and useful. When Bergman and Paavola created the original Commens, their goal was a web site that would serve as an enabler of scholarly communication as well as a free resource for researchers and students - and hence ‘Commens’, a term that suggests community and sharing of knowledge. The new version of Commens has also been developed in this spirit; it moves closer to the original aim by providing new possibilities for user input and collaboration.
In addition to evoking the original Digital Encyclopedia edited by Queiroz and Gudwin, the term ‘Digital Companion’ refers to the emphasis on the new forms of publication that Commens provides. Unlike traditional, printed companion volumes, Commens grows and evolves through user input. However, like most traditional companions, Commens is edited by academic experts and its articles are peer reviewed according to scholarly standards.
Commens collects and publishes news pertaining to Peirce studies and closely related fields. The news are divided into categories, such as ‘academic meeting’ and ‘publication’. An archive of all news items is provided on the News page. In addition, news with a set date, such as meetings and deadlines, are listed in the ‘Upcoming Events’ and ‘Upcoming Deadlines’ sidebar blocks on the front page as well as on their own dedicated pages (see Upcoming Events and Upcoming Deadlines. All registered members may add news to Commens, as long as the entries are relevant to Peirce studies. All news items are supervised by the site editors, who reserve the right to remove any inappropriate entries.
The Commens Dictionary consists of original quotations, in which Peirce defines or characterises his technical terms. This collection of quotes does not lay claim to completeness; the dictionary aims to offer representative samples of Peirce’s terminological definitions. It is intended to serve as an aid for researchers and students. All quotes are associated with sources (such as manuscripts or journal articles) added to the bibliography. The contents of the Dictionary is primarily organised according to term, but quotes can also be viewed and bookmarked individually.
Only editors and contributors may add and edit the contents; but all registered users may add comments (such as suggestions for new quotes and corrections). The comments are monitored by the site editors, who have the right to remove any inappropriate comments. The Commens Dictionary is edited by Mats Bergman and Sami Paavola.
The Commens Encyclopedia contains original research articles related to different aspects of the philosophy and life of Peirce. The Encyclopedia includes articles of varying length and scientific scope; for the new edition, the editors are in particular looking for shorter contributions focused on Peirce’s philosophical and scientific terms - their background, development, and significance - or on specific terminological issues in Peirce’s oeuvre. However, broader articles dealing with Peirce’s thought and biography are also welcome. The articles are peer reviewed according to academic standards.
The Commens Encyclopedia is edited by Mats Bergman and João Queiroz.
The Commens Working Papers publishes preprints, reports, and scholarly communications (such as conference presentations) that deal with the philosophy, scientific contributions, and life of C. S. Peirce. The Commens Papers are primarily meant for scholarly products that lack other means of publication, but which the author wishes to bring to the attention of the research community. The papers must meet editorial approval, but they are not fully peer reviewed.
The Commens Working Papers is edited by Mats Bergman, Sami Paavola, and João Queiroz.
The Commens Bibliography is a biographical database that contains both primary and secondary Peirce research sources. The bibliography provides the source references for the Commens Dictionary. All registered users can add certain records (such as monographs and journal articles) to the bibliography as long as the entries relate to Peirce studies in some manner. The bibliography is supervised by the site editors, who have the right to remove any inappropriate entries.
A number of Bibliography records of the manuscript type contain original Peirce manuscripts as attachments. The files are only accessible to registered users; the list of available manuscripts with files can be viewed by all.
The keywords section lists all the keywords (including dictionary terms) used to categorise Commens content. It provides a structured (but not complete) index of the site.
The links section contains categorised links to external resources of interest. This includes relevant academic associations, research centres, journals, seminars, and any other site or page that the editors have deemed to be of potential interest for Peirce scholars. Suggestions are welcome.
Other Resources and Tools
The Front Page
The front page provides an overview of recent activity in Commens: latest additions, upcoming news events and deadlines, and site announcements (such as information about maintenance schedules). The front page may also selectively display special messages intended for specific user roles.
The additions page provides a full listing of additions to Commens.
RSS, Digests, Twitter feed
Commens provides RSS feeds of added and updated (= both added and revised) contents, as well as some delimited feeds (such as news). These can be accessed from the footer or the subscriptions page. For those who prefer to be informed of new content by e-mail, there is a weekly digest (registered users are automatically subscribed, but may opt out if they wish). Information about new content is also automatically posted to the Commens Twitter feed.
The ‘Share’ option in the main toolbar will open up a menu with links to social media services (at the moment, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+). If you use these services, you can easily share a link to the page you are viewing by using this menu. You can also share Commens content by e-mail, using the ‘mail’ link available on all individual content pages (news items, Dictionary entries, Encyclopedia articles) and in the dictionary toolbar visible when you move the cursor over quotes on term pages.
The search page allows the user to search all indexed contents in Commens, and to limit the search hits by using special search filters. Searches can also be initiated on any page from the search field on the right side of the site header.
Technical Platform and Development
This version of Commens has been built using the open-source CMS Drupal and an adapted version of the Mayo theme. In addition to providing research resources for the Peirce community, Commens is a testing ground for novel forms of scholarly publication and cooperation. Consequently, the site editors will continue to explore the possibility of adding new features and collaborative tools to Commens.
Please contact Mats Bergman (administrator) if you wish to report technical errors or have suggestions regarding the design of Commens.