Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 785.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001 09:21:18 +0100
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Francois Lachance)
Subject: electron is to s p a n
I was pondering the possible ratios that might emerge from your recent
musings sprung from Ian Hacking's distinctions between theory and
experiment. I found myself spinning with
electron : ?
experiment : theory
Of course, you asked what types of mental objects in the humanities act in
a parallel fashion to the electron in science.
I ask this because I came across a passage in Rawdom Wilson's _In
Palamedes Shadow: Exploration in Play, Game and Narrative Theory_ which
leads me to question just how the passage from theory to experiment works
in the humanities.
In the absence of conviction with regard to the sufficiency of language to
represent the world (and both authenticity and reference having been
demystified), all that remains (though this is already much) is play:
"Play's autonomy promises, if faintly, the possibility of creating a
necessary order in the midst of absurd fallennes." (p 112)
Wilson is quoting from Allen Thiher, _Words in Reflection: Modern Language
Theory in Postmodern Fiction (1984 p. 156)
Would it be fair to consider the theorizing of humanists as leading less
to experiment and more to game? Would those electrons you seek be glass
beads? Simple counters in a relay of moves? "span" is a set of such
counters (at least two are needed to mark a span-like container). I sense
your theme of primitives begins to ressemble the theme of diectics. There
is something quite akin to physics in the content modeling and
intertextual mappings that humanists produce on quite the gamut of
cultural artefacts. Would map creation and content modelling be in the
category of "experiment" or do they belong to the domain of theory?
The strength of humanities computing may very well be in its ability to
engage in collective theorizing via the pragmatic questions of
producing, circulating and analyzing digital constructions. And preserving
-- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large some threads tangle in tassles, others form the weft http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance
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