5.0146 Humanities Computing; Computers & Equality (3/122)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 18 Jun 91 10:29:47 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0146. Tuesday, 18 Jun 1991.

(1) Date: Thu, 13 Jun 1991 21:28:46 -0400 (35 lines)
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: where next? continued

(2) Date: Fri, 14 JUN 91 10:36:38 +0100 (57 lines)
Subject: re: computers and equality

(3) Date: 14 Jun 91 13:22 EST (30 lines)
From: Malcolm Hayward <MHAYWARD@IUPCP6.BITNET>
Subject: Humanities Computing

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 1991 21:28:46 -0400
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: where next? continued

Sheizaf Rafaeli reminds me in his response to my enumerated list of
activities that introspection is characteristic of our field. I had
intended my fifth point, "research", to cover such professional
self-examination, but it seems that the degree of emphasis does not
correspond to what an observant sociologist can detect from reading
Humanist, for example. In fact, as I have thought more about my rash
reduction of the whole gamut to five headings, much remains to be
said. The building of resources such as software and archives of data
(text, graphics, music) and the devising of standards for them (TEI,
most prominently) are primary activities that don't fit easily
anywhere in my tentative scheme. What other things have I not caught?

My Torontonian colleague Eva Swenson, in a private message, raises a very
interesting point related to what I called "research". She notes that
demonstrations of software (e.g. at fairs) seems to indicate promise and
potential in what we do -- my "evangelical" category -- but wants to
know how the often asserted value or benefit of computing to the
humanities can be documented. Again, an occasion for introspection.
Perhaps the case for research (at least research of certain kinds) is
clear, but in any case much of it can proceed without having to prove
anything to anyone, except (as usual) the quality of one's written
work. Where teaching is concerned, however, large capital outlays are
required, e.g. for teaching labs, and some major changes to the
infrastructure. My question is this: if it's fundamentally impossible
to measure the true effectiveness of instruction, how can we possibly
hope to prove that computers do it better?

Willard McCarty

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------68----
Date: Fri, 14 JUN 91 10:36:38 +0100
Subject: re: computers and equality

I passed on a copy of the recent 'computers and equality' mailing to a
colleague at the Open University here in the UK ... I thought the list
might be interested in his response (a UK perspective).

Subj: PC's and the blind
Hi Simon
Many thanks for passing on the article. I noticed with interest that
there was no mention of optical character readers. I would find it hard
to survive without one! Their reading ability is really very good -
certainly no problem with laser output documents or text books. These
days the price is not too bad - about 2,500 pounds for a system to "plug"
into your PC. Before too long the price should reduce to a point where
some blind people can have one at home.

I too use a CD rom drive on my PC. I have just been given a copy of "The
Times" and "Sunday Times" for 1990 on CD rom. The inside articles make
fascinating reading for someone who hasn't read a newspaper for 20 years.
Other CD's that I use are the MS Bookshelf (mainly for the dictionary) and
a super demo disk from Nimbus - it contains all manner of Shareware and
Public Domain packages. (Nimbus - Research Machines Ltd. IBM compatible
micro made in UK.)

I have had first hand experience of copyright problems. Back in the bad
old days of BBC computers I asked a magazine publisher if they would
supply their magazine on disk. The reply was "with pleasure" and it was
super to be able to read the publication on my own. However I only
received the one edition because the publisher was frightened that the
disk would be copied N times thereby reducing sales. Obviously they had
never heard of photocopiers!

I have ordered a couple of computer books from the Montana Disk Library
but as yet not received them. They are a little expensive (about $10 a
disk I seem to recall) but things do look promising.

My concern is that with a Mb of memory costing what a Kb used to cost
everyone will go for graphics displays of text. Graphical User Interfaces
like Windows are so popular. I have just discovered a text packaging
which allows all the features of Windows which is very pleasing (it is
called Desqview and is produced by Quarterdeck). I must say that I find
it difficult to understand why an adult should want to move a pointer
around the screen using a mouse when a single key stroke does the same

Sorry for going on for so long - I have been playing with computers and
speech output for over ten years now so it is a hobby horse of mine.

Thanks for putting PC's and the blind on the agenda.
David Calderwood.

Research Adviser, Academic Computing Service SA_RAE@UK.AC.OPEN.ACS.VAX (JANET)
The Open University, Walton Hall, phone: (0908) 652413
Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, United Kingdom fax: (0908) 653744
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------34----
Date: 14 Jun 91 13:22 EST
From: Malcolm Hayward <MHAYWARD@IUPCP6.BITNET>
Subject: Humanities Computing

Willard's five areas (six with Sheizaf's Introspection) are
a useful way to think about Humanities Computing in abstract
terms, but it seems to me that in practice they collapse into
a single principle (with, perhaps, the exception of research).
Over the past two weeks I have taught a workshop in Humanities
Computing, helped the dean index a bibliography of renaissance
drama, advised a colleague on computerized typesetting for a
journal, helped another download info from a CD-ROM, and failed
to get a modem working for a friend. So I was serving, teaching,
and so on. The principle behind those was having some amount
of expertise (not enough in the case of the modem) in the
hardware and software and some understanding of what the people
wanted as a final product from the computer (knowing how to
use TACT, the bibliography, the citations from MLA, the journal
itself in final form, a working modem). That's a fairly
basic principle, of course, but I think it is the one that will
keep Humanities Computing going, for there will always be a lag
of a few years between the advances in the field and their wide
acceptance by those who can use them. I am a little bit afraid
that fixing Humanities Computing at some static point would leave
the field behind.

Malcolm Hayward MHayward@IUP
Department of English Phone: 412-357-2322 or
IUP 412-357-2261
Indiana, PA 15705