5.0850 Humanities Computing Courses (1/42)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 22 Apr 1992 22:14:20 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0850. Wednesday, 22 Apr 1992.

Date: Sun, 19 Apr 92 19:55:09 METDST
From: Harry Gaylord <galiard@let.rug.nl>
Subject: humanities computing courses

I have been reading the reports on humanities computing courses offered
elsewhere with special interest. That is particularly so since I am a member
of the Alfa Informatica dept in Groningen. The name appears to be opaque to
those outside the Netherlands. Here the hard sciences and maths are referred
to as beta, social sciences as gamma. What is left over (arts, philosophy,
law, and theology) are called alfa. We offer major and minor programmes in
Historical and Cultural Informatica (working with text and data), natural
language processing, and artificial intelligence. There are similar programmes
in Utrecht and Amsterdam with slightly different enphases. We have a staff
of 10 including doctorate candidates and a new person will be coming in
We have just finished our study guide for next year and I could post it if
people are interested. I have no time to translate it from Dutch, but it is
not as difficult to understand as you might first think.

What has strck me about the discussion so far is the unclear distinction
between 'academic' and service courses. Should academic credit be given for
service courses? How many units can be given credit? The growing tendency
is to give credit to increease student incentive. The service courses are
very necessary in many cases for getting students started and one wishes that
colleagues could and would take the time out to follow some courses or engage
in self study to become computer literate. A student needs time at the beginning
of an academic career to learn how to use the library facilities. It took
longer for my freshman son at U Wisc this year than it did me at Yale in 1961.
But he has direct access to the catalogues of the 54 libraries on campus from
a terminal plus electronic bibliographies and probably cd-rom texts. Every
hour that someone at university spends without being aware of these new sources
of information is less efficiently and profitably used.
Yet even using the modern library systems is categorically different from a
programme of study for library sciences. The students may start at the same
point, but ...
My feeling is that a very limited amount of credit on a pass/fail basis
should be a required part of the first year programme of every humanities
student. But there should be a low ceiling on how many of these service
courses would count towards the academic degree.

I would be very interested what others think.

Happy Easter and Pesach.