15.168 disciplinarity

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Tue Aug 07 2001 - 03:16:44 EDT

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "15.169 disciplinarity"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 168.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (45)
             Subject: Re: 15.165 perspectives on disciplinarity

       [2] From: Mel Wiebe <wiebem@qsilver.queensu.ca> (32)
             Subject: disciplinarity

       [3] From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com> (5)
             Subject: Re: 15.165 perspectives on disciplinarity

       [4] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (106)
             Subject: Re: 15.165 perspectives on disciplinarity

             Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2001 08:10:33 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: 15.165 perspectives on disciplinarity


    Provocative post. Almost a restatement of Renear's provocative abstract
    for the Newcastle symposium [See Newcastle After the Wine

    On slogans:

    > out loud for a button that reads, "Disciplinarity can be cured!" (thus
    > along the lines of "Monolingualism can be cured!").

    Neither are diseases.

    Would love to see one that read "HumCom Power".

    > It is not insignificant to note that in universities there would seem to be
    > two kinds of jobs that allow the incumbent to cultivate a truly
    > interdisciplinary perspective, understand it and act on what he or she sees
    > -- deanships (& sim.) and appointments in humanities computing.

    Hello. Librarians. Technicians. Translators. Editors with presses. And
    extra-muros intellectuals.

    Again. Institutional position is not equivalent to disciplinary practice.
    I would suspect that "a truly interdisciplinary perspective" can also be
    cultivated by students before or while they occupy "jobs".

    One more time. Rigour as exemplified by disciplinary practices is not
    alien to interdisciplinary work and even less so to an interdisciplinary

    Governance. What happens where and when and the quality of that happening
    is conditioned by the culumative interactions of peers, students,
    administrators, funders and interested social engineers.

    Instead of a button, would you settle for a bit of buckwheat honey mixed
    with some tarragon vinegar to dress your salad and that of your guests or
    even a nice book, a copy of John Evelyn's _Acetaria_, A Discourse
    of Sallets?

         I really shouldn't be allowed to go to auctions. I bought a copy of
         John Evelyn's book on salad-making, Acetaria, simply because of the
         aptness of the catalogue description: "A few leaves browned or
                                          -- Eric Korn, "Remainders" TLS 8/8/86
    Source: from a cache of notes and quotations
    worth checking out for the apocryphal story of Edward VII and spinach
    stains and savouring its metaphoric import

    Off to turn finger wagging into mayonaise making,


    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    per Interactivity ad Virtuality via Textuality

    --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2001 08:11:36 +0100 From: Mel Wiebe <wiebem@qsilver.queensu.ca> Subject: disciplinarity

    Over the years I have gradually developed a simple rule-of-thumb regarding interdisciplinarity: top down = bad; bottom up = good. From my own experience and from watching others in a variety of academic fields, both in the humanities and the sciences, I have come to believe that the only interdisciplinarity that is valid is the kind that develops when people engaged in real problems find that they need to go outside their disciplines and either learn about or consult/interact with people in other fields. Interdisciplinarity that is invented and/or imposed by administrators and grant agencies tends to reflect fashions and is often quite cynically political, although of course there will always be people who jump on the bandwagon and generate a flurry of activity. The real distinction is that the former is driven by actual cutting-edge research and its needs, while the latter is typically devised by people not themselves engaged in research and teaching. One encounters the conflict between the two when, for example, actual interdisciplinary research is deemed by a granting agency to be not eligible for funding under its interdisciplinary program because the interdisciplinarity is not of the "right" kind. We have an example in my university of the kind of thing that can result from top-down interdisciplinary pressures from the administration, a course in "poetry and math". It is the darling of the deans et al, who love to cite it when the topic of interdisciplinarity comes up. What goes on in this course? One half of each class is taken up by an English prof discussing a poem and the other half by a math prof discussing a mathematical concept; despite the possibilities one can think of, no interchange between the two halves takes place. Why? Because the people teaching the respective halves are not engaged in any poetry-and-math scholarship or research. Willard's example of the dean who appreciatively watched interdisciplinarity bubbling up from his faculty is an administrator to be cherished; in my experience, the tendency too often is the other way, with administrators designing and imposing interdisciplinary programs with a Procrustean tendency while paradoxically remaining blind to the true interdisciplinarity evolving all around them. Mel Wiebe

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2001 08:12:58 +0100 From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com> Subject: Re: 15.165 perspectives on disciplinarity

    Willard, when I go to scholarly meetings I rarely go to sessions in my fields....I much prefer to find out what the other folks are doing (and papers in other fields never seem as disheartening). I have acquired some of my best information by wandering through non-lit parts of good libraries, too, just taking books off the shelves as their titles seem interesting --a form of sortilege.

    --[4]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2001 08:13:51 +0100 From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> Subject: Re: 15.165 perspectives on disciplinarity

    From: Osher Doctorow osher@ix.netcom.com, Mon. Aug. 6, 2001 10:16PM

    I am very interested to discover via WM's contribution that Deans and appointments to humanities computing appear to open the possibility of inter-disciplinary perspectives. I knew that was true of WM, but I that that I begin to understand what he means. Humanities computing is by definition a combination of humanities and computing (not inhumanities, I hope). Deans are by definition moderators and facilitators (I do not have an Oxford English Dictionary readily available, so I am not sure what else they are or may be, and I no longer resign myself to American English dictionaries). Hopefully, in moderating between different factions and individuals and persons from different disciplines, they will adopt an interdisciplinary perspective.

    It is possible that there may be a few exceptions. The thought occurs to me that if the whole is equal to or greater than (in chemistry, etc.) the sum of its parts, then if the parts have certain defects, the whole might also. Similarly, if the disciplines whom an *interdisciplinary* person unites so to speak (mentally or otherwise) contain hidden and somewhat erroneous axioms, then the interdisciplinary perspective may lead to slightly awkward results. As an example, reverence for the Mainstream versus the Non-Mainstream seems pervasive in university departments, corporate departments, and governmental departments indisciminately across the world. New ideas are eagerly sought as long as they are not too new and preferably bear the stamp of familiarity both in themselves and in their authors/discoverers.

    I sometimes imagine Jesus Christ returning to Earth (I was about to say the Planet of the Apes, but at the age of 62 one learns to inhibit one's fingers at the keyboard) and walking into one of the Bureaucratic places, where Jesus is promptly re-crucified for being (a) unfamiliar, (b) too novel, (c) non-standard, (d) inter-disciplinary at the expense of intra-disciplinary, in the opinion of the majority of an appropriately designated committee, (e) over-involved with ethics (possibly even a *whistle-blower* as we say in the USA, where there are certainly more than enough whistles to blow) to the exclusion of practical matters and favorite theories of the Bureaucratic place, (f) lacking a passport, (g) not being an officially certified member of the Bureaucracy.

    Possibly we could include Open-Minded Non-Bureaucrats among the inter-disciplinary categories (the Omnibus Alternative, so to speak).

    Osher Doctorow Southern California, where the Sun Shines (nothing else does, however)

    ----- Original Message ----- From: "Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>)" <willard@lists.village.virginia.edu> To: "Humanist Discussion Group" <humanist@lists.Princeton.EDU> Sent: Monday, August 06, 2001 1:17 AM

    > > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 165. > Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London > <http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/> > <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/> > > > > Date: Mon, 06 Aug 2001 09:13:20 +0100 > From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> > Subject: from above, from below > > Recently I had the pleasure of talking over dinner with a senior > administrator, dean of a large, quite diverse school, about the nature of > scholarly research -- which, alas, he is no longer himself able to do for > the obvious reasons. He remarked that it was quite liberating when he first > got involved in university-wide reviews of research to realise by reading > proposals and other summaries of work across the departments how narrow his > own ideas had been of what scholarship is. For me, as I told him, the > memorable moment occurred when in a graduate-level seminar I was teaching a > guest lecturer, a philosopher who was describing his research in humanities > computing, was challenged by an aggressive (post)-grad student, a budding > literary critic. "That's not scholarship!" the student said. "Yes it is!" > the philosopher replied. The discussion that followed was an eye-opener. > > Some time ago I wished out loud, on Humanist, that I had a baseball cap > with a propeller on top -- in case you don't remember or were not there at > the time, someone had mentioned "the propeller-heads among us". Following > that a good friend found the item and sent it to me. (It fits.) In the > context of the previous paragraph, I am more than a little tempted to wish > out loud for a button that reads, "Disciplinarity can be cured!" (thus > along the lines of "Monolingualism can be cured!"). > > It is not insignificant to note that in universities there would seem to be > two kinds of jobs that allow the incumbent to cultivate a truly > interdisciplinary perspective, understand it and act on what he or she sees > -- deanships (& sim.) and appointments in humanities computing. Of course > it is not impossible for someone in an ordinary academic department to gain > such a perspective, only very difficult because of the demands on his or > her attention. Deans have, as it were, the view from above, computing > humanists from below. I think it would be very beneficial for us to hear > what sorts of arguments deans, heads of school and the like would find most > appealing and useful in helping us to advance what we do. > > Comments? > > Yours, > WM > > ----- > 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/ >

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