15.056 obstacles &c to humanities computing

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Tue May 29 2001 - 02:16:57 EDT

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "15.060 obstacles to humanities computing & other studies"

                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 56.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: "Fotis Jannidis" <fotis.jannidis@lrz.uni- (54)
             Subject: Re: 15.055 obstacles, apprenticeship, service and fun

       [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (43)
             Subject: service

             Date: Tue, 29 May 2001 06:59:14 +0100
             From: "Fotis Jannidis" <fotis.jannidis@lrz.uni-muenchen.de>
             Subject: Re: 15.055 obstacles, apprenticeship, service and fun

    > From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com>

    > I'm always amused and sometimes a bit angry at the same time whenever I
    > see lists of "what a Humanities Computing Person should know". They are
    > so time-bound and changeable

    that applies to all scientific knowledge, but is no reason not to have
    standards for a particular point in time

    > There is no standard curriculum or agreed upon set of information (or
    > even worse "behaviors") for a Ph.D. in English, and if we're lucky,
    > there never will be.

    Is this really true? I believe the test is not, what should the person
    know, but rather: Imagine talking to somebody having a Ph.D. in
    English. What kind of ignorance would surprise you? p.e.
    "Shakespeare who?" or: "I collect the relevant literature for my
    topic by asking my bookseller" or: "I wrote down what I felt when I
    read this poem and believe this to be a valuable contribution to
    literary criticism"

    > I hope the same is true for "humanities
    > computing"....do what you need to do, or what you're curious about, and
    > ignore the folks who are trying to tell you what's important.

    If we want to change the status of humanities computing from an
    ad hoc tool to something like a subject by its own, it is necessary
    to think about what should be included.

    here is my wish list:

    1. Be able to use electronic text,
    that implies a thorough understanding of:
    a) character encodings and the basic principles of markup
    b) xml as the most important m.l.
    c) different search techniques (String, boolean, tree context, ..)
    d) the basic notions of statistic

    2. Be able to manipulate electronic texts
    a) some scripting language which supports regular expressions
    b) Regular expressions
    c) a transformation language like xslt

    3. Be able to create electronic text
    they should have a good knowledge of
    a) the actual standards of electronic editions; what has been
    released in the last 2-3 years, how does it work and what does it
    look like
    b) some authoring tool for xml
    c) standards like unicode and tiff, especially where are the limits
    and problems
    d) basic design principles for human computer interfaces,
    especially of the problems how to create useful links
    e) the digitization process at least for text and images

    4. Be able to understand the main changes of the new media as
    part of the history of media
    a) some hypertext theory
    b) some media theory and history
    c) knowledge of new forms of art in the new media like hyperfiction
    and computergames

    Fotis Jannidis

    Forum Computerphilologie

             Date: Tue, 29 May 2001 07:09:57 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: service

    Charles Faulhaber's nth stab (at "the question of whether humanities
    scholars who want to use computers in their research must become computing
    humanists") comes very close to my own idea of scholarship. My Ovid project
    really began when I realised that the best response I could give to the
    poet was to produce something that by making certain kinds of work easier
    would help others respond. I chose to do this rather than write THE (I am
    now convinced) unwriteable book on the Metamorphoses when I saw how
    intellectually challenging my service-work would be. There's much to be
    said, I suppose, about exactly how we define "easier"; I think what it
    means is that we construe certain problems as trivial to get them out of
    the way so that the ones we think important get the attention. In this case
    "easier" is relative: the work a conventional literary critic would likely
    not want to do and so would wish could be treated as if it were trivial,
    this work I found more to my liking than the conventional essay. In any
    case, PhiloBiblion, the Onomasticon and other things like it are acts of
    service to the scholarly community -- not abusing that last word, rather
    giving it meaning through those acts.

    I think we have a still serious social problem with our notion of service:
    it's one thing (a) to serve the community and one's field through work one
    has chosen to do and has the direction of, quite another thing (b) to be
    called preemptorily to fix someone's printer or install the latest version
    of whatever. The problem, I know, doesn't inhere in either of those kinds
    of service, rather it occurs when someone who should be and wants to be
    doing (a) has to be doing (b). Such mis-employment is something with which
    many computing humanists are intimately familiar; the passion to fix this
    problem fueled the creation of Humanist, some of you will recall. One
    response, to which I would guess Charles is reacting as I react, is to put
    walls up around humanities computing, raise the disciplinary flag and start
    military training. And, more to the point, make sure that anyone who wants
    to get through the gate knows how to solve the puzzle of the month. Big
    mistake. At the same time, I hear others say, how do we get enough land to
    raise the crops that we KNOW will benefit everyone in this fertile valley?
    How do we persuade the older inhabitants that if they give up small bits of
    their own resources the return will be all out of proportion to the loss?

    We continue to do what we are doing, I suppose, but extend the work, focus
    it better by figuring out exactly what it is we want to make easier, what
    in fact more problematic.


    Dr Willard McCarty / Senior Lecturer /
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities / King's College London /
    Strand / London WC2R 2LS / U.K. /
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784 / ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue May 29 2001 - 02:24:31 EDT