15.053 report on COCH/COSH (Canada)

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Sun May 27 2001 - 02:13:53 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 53.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Sun, 27 May 2001 07:02:50 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: COCH/COSH


    I was briefly in Quebec City for part of the COCH/COSH annual meeting. I
    think you would have enjoyed the proceedings which were held in a building
    which is used primarily for continuing education.

    I can report on some of the presentations. Other subscribers may be able
    to fill you in from their own perspective both on what I report here and
    on what I fail to report.

    Bill Winder sparked some thinking into questions of expertise. He provided
    a very provoking paradox with all sorts of wonderful prickly ethical
    spines. He invited us to take the case of the researcher/teacher who
    builds an automatic grammar corrector by using data collected from student
    samples which at first blush looks like putting the pedagoge out of a job.

    Stefan Sinclair offered an elegant use case of the KIS (keep it simple)
    principle in action and a wonderful exemplification of refurbishing a
    system that had evolved in a pre-Web distribution environment. He gave a
    quick overview of SATORBASE which is suite of tools for searching and
    updating a database of literary topoi. After this cogent presentation, I
    would very much like to hear Stefan speak about Perl and learning curves
    as well as the pros and cons of storing data in plain text, XML or a
    relational database. There is very much the basis of a three-part
    "memoire" in his experience which could weave together the
    autobiographical (how a research acquires and stretches a skill set), the
    topical (how a specific project carries and transcends its histories) and
    the technical (the trade off between performance and maintenace).

    Martine Cardin presented an overview of an ethnological project involving
    some 800 hours of taped interviews. The archival aspect was most
    intriguing. The classificatory scheme was developed according to a
    taxonomy of cultural practices versus one centred on objects. The project
    exemplifies the fruitful intersection of discourse analysis and archive

    Ron Tetrault presented a tour through the products of an electronic text
    centre where each of the products is a marker of the centre's history of
    developing institutional support. It was priceless to see his expression
    when he reinvoked in mimetic fashion his own reactions to business plan
    that had been developed by business school students for the centre. Even
    more priceless to see the appreciative audience reaction to this evocation
    of nitty-gritty of administration. Maybe some future session could focus
    on a fuller telling of this tale.

    Maite Taboada reminded us that business applications of computational
    linguistics do provide intellectual stimulation. Her analysis of the genre
    structure of bulletin board messages certainly leads one to wonder about
    the rhetoric of invective and that of argumentation. It would be
    interesting to explore further what constitutes the markers of structure
    that can be recognized by a machine.

    Greg Polly offered another take at the verbal/visual distinction by
    attempting to apply reader reception theory (Wolfgang Iser) to video games
    and interactive narrative. The discussion after this presentation was
    lively. Ian Lancashire reminded the assembled that recent research in
    physiology suggests that the same brain centres which deal with oral/aural
    language forms also deal with sign language.

    The visual/verbal as modes of the same cognitive competencies was also a
    theme in the presentation prepared by John Bonnet which drew upon the
    historical economist Harold Innis. A pedagogical exercise in which
    students construct 3D models from archival photographs and fire insurance
    maps is designed to lead them to an appreciation of the documentary
    evidence. It is a fine example of the re-emphasis on the trivium of
    construction-collaboration-communication which is shaping many online

    And there were the conversations "en coulisse". It struck me that the
    visual/verbal parti pris (very much rooted in an undertheorizing of the
    image/word traditions engrained in some of the institutional arrangements
    of our establishments of higher learning) is bleeding over into
    pre-judgements about how best to mount a humanities computing pedagogical
    program: multi-media versus the verbal document. In the end there appears
    to be a wish for diversity. But I suspect the expression of any wish that
    is a mere concession and is not grounded in a fuller understanding of
    cultural artefacts and the sensory modalities of their apprehension. On
    that front (yes, it deserves a trope of engagement), very glad to learn
    that Johanna Drucker (author of _The Visible Word_) is a keynote speaker
    at ACH/ACCL in New York City. I hope to hear reports.

    Program and abstracts available by consulting

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    20th : Machine Age :: 21st : Era of Reparation

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