15.065 obstacles &c to humanities computing

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Tue Jun 05 2001 - 01:45:32 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 65.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 06:32:56 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: obstacles, fun and confessions


    A little confession-style question with the intention to dissipate some
    free-floating guilt that lingers 'round lists of disiderata: how many
    subscribers who do or have done work in activities touching upon
    computing in the humanities can lay claim to possessing the basic skill
    set outlined in any or all of the lists that have been proposed recently
    for the trouseau of accomplishments to be possessed by a graduate of a
    degree program in humanities computing? I, for one, do not. Nor am I in a
    position to acquire them soon.

    I am in a position to point out that any approach to the social
    reproduction of a discipline or field that does not take into account the
    changing nature of the workplace will miss opportunities to tap into the
    dynamics of life-long learning. I used the "trouseau" metaphor above. I
    urge people designing (and implementing) educational programs not to
    consider their lists as items for the wedding chest for some
    cryto-marriage, i.e. not to gear a program for preparing its graduates for
    a life "out there". Or to switch metaphors (barely), graduate school is
    _not_ a boot camp.

    Is it possible to imagine Humanities Computing operating across centres,
    institutions, programs, that are flexible and are designed to link
    students and allow them the possibilities of maintaining links? I recall
    that CETH mounted intensive summer sessions that operated with both
    plenaries and parallel tracks. It is a model that might serve planners
    well in terms of thinking not of individual students but of cohorts. If
    the expert on digital images is at institution A and the expert on
    hypermedia is at institution B, what arrangements are there so that
    students and experts at institutions A & B can benefit? Note that the
    expert may not be a member of faculty but a student and that such an
    expert-student may find much to be learnt from being mentored while

    In short, there are other gate-keeping models that need not reflect a bias
    for family formation narratives (parent institution bonds with student
    child to prepare child-student for marriage-like couplings). They begin
    with thinking of modes of alliance which consider what the student brings
    to a program, what the student has to offer, what the student gives, and
    what synergies are possible with a whole set of student-donors. It becomes
    easier to think in such terms if the activities of a program take not
    only the form of a two or one year time table but also including
    intensive seminars, workshops and meetings of shorter duration either
    online or in the flesh.

    Being true to the spread of pleasure may mean considering a life of
    alternating intensities.

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

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