Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 261.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
 From: "Koster, Jo" <email@example.com> (83)
Subject: RE: 15.257 data and reality?
 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Francois Lachance) (55)
Subject: Re: 15.257 data and reality?
 From: "Osher Doctorow" <email@example.com> (130)
Subject: Re: 15.257 data and reality?
 From: Patricia Galloway <firstname.lastname@example.org> (17)
Subject: Re: 15.257 data and reality?
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 07:13:35 +0100
From: "Koster, Jo" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: 15.257 data and reality?
Getting students to understand that there can be (let alone that
there _is_)a "complex and treacherous domain that lies between data and
our representations of reality on the machine" is a problem I find that
I have to attack more and more explicitly as my students become more and
more members of a generation where the picture is the truth. I have
tried doing it with print sources by using varying historical accounts
of the same event: the assassination of Malcolm X, the events at
Lexington & Concord, the battle in Tianamen Square (see below for
references) with some success. But I have not had as much success
convincing him that this same standard applies to the web.
The best thing I have found to do is to show them convincing
"historical representations of fact" that are in fact frauds, and
encourage them to see what signals--clearly there--they ignore out of
their conditioning to believe what they see. Two good sites I use for
this are http://www.improb.com/airchives/classical/cat/cat.html and
http://faculty.winthrop.edu/kosterj/writ102/marktwain.htm. These aren't
the only ones that work. Some of the best examples are at Susan Beck's
site, http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/evalexpl.html. She has a wonderful
collection of graphically-impressive yet deceitful web materials. The
one that has worked best with my students is the one on little-known
facts about women and aids, at
http://22.214.171.124/library/research/AIDSFACTS.htm, a site that was
designed and is maintained by John Henderson. Yet the essential problem
remains: students believe something is a truth because they see it and
hear it and are comfortable with it--and getting them to question this
enculturated position is an activity that takes more and more effort.
In the past few days my students have angrily denounced the
pictures shown on television of Palestinian women and children
celebrating the news of the New York/Pentagon disaster in the refugee
camps of Lebanon. I finally had to tape the scene off CNN and show it
frame by frame to make them see that there were other Palestinians
behind them, walking past without celebrating or shaking their heads in
sadness (and I hope disgust), to get them to see that not ALL people of
Arabic descent support the terrorist acts. Then I asked them how many of
them, as eight- and nine-year old children, had gone to parades and
celebrations after the end of the Kuwait war in the early 90s. Almost
all of them had. They had all cheered and celebrated because enemies of
their country had died. "But that's different," they said. "That was a
_war_." I assigned them to go out and discover whether the US Congress
had ever actually passed a declaration of war that was signed by the
President--whether it was really a _war_ in the historical sense. They
came back defeated and frustrated--this is not what they wanted to
believe, and I don't think most of them still believe that their
historical "truth" of the Gulf War could be in some way inaccurate.
I think probably this is a bigger problem than just one for
students of humanities computing and has more complexity than just with
how we present information in an electronic environment. I think it is a
problem for all cultures where we permit people to accept the most
comfortable view of events as the truth.
Jo Koster (formerly Tarvers), Ph.D.
Department of English
Rock Hill, SC 29733-0001 USA
phone (803) 323-4557
fax (803) 323-4837
on the web http://faculty.winthrop.edu/kosterj
"Brother, brother, / We don't need to hesitate. / War is not the answer,
/ For only love can conquer hate."---Marvin Gaye
Print accounts: 1. Five Accounts of the Assassination of Malcolm X: The
New York Times 2/22/1965; Life 3/5/1965; The New York Post 2/22/1965;
Associated Press 2/22/1965; The Amsterdam News 2/27/1965. From Chaffee,
Thinking Critically 5/e, pp. 169-171.
2. Four Accounts of the Battle of Lexington: from Samuel Steinberg, The
United States: Story of a Free People; from Winston Churchill, History
of the English Speaking Peoples; from the deposition of Sylvanus Woods,
a Minuteman, given 30 years after the event; from the deposition of John
Bateman, British militiaman, given while a prisoner of war in
Massachusetts. From Chaffee,
Thinking Critically 5/e, pp. 213-15, based on an activity from the
Critical Thinking in History Project.
3. Seven Accounts of Events at Tiananmen Square, 1989: from The New York
Times, 6/4/89; Deng Xiaoping, as reported in The Beijing Review, July
1989; Eyewitness reporter=s account, The New York Times, 6/4/89;
official Chinese government accounts; The New York Times, 6/5/89;
eyewitness account of Xiao Bin immediately after the event; statement of
Xiao Bin while in the custody of
Chinese authorities. From Chaffee, Thinking Critically 5/e, pp. 215-220.
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 07:13:11 +0100
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Francois Lachance)
Subject: Re: 15.257 data and reality?
As your quotation makes clear, Collingwood that likens what he calls the
"common-sense" idea of history to a respect for a "sacred text". I noted
the absence of editorial intervention in regards to the gender of the
hypothetical historian. I am intrigued as to how the gender disappears in
your commentary when the discussion moves from of the single historian (in
the Collingwood quotation) to historians in the plural (in your
commentary). Is that plural yours or Collingwood's?
I ask because it has an impact on a possible answer to your question:
> My question is this: how do we introduce our students, in humanities
> computing, to the complex and treacherous domain that lies between data and
> our representations of reality on the machine? How do we jolt them out of
> the common-sense view that these representations are purely and simply
We, and other pedagogues, can create group exercises that model the play
of context displacement. One set of exercises is the simple commentary by
one group on another groups selection of a snippet from a larger text --
an exercise very familiar to those involved in sources and roots research.
An other excercise is rhetorical: parsing the parts of an artefact such
as a posting to a discussion list and playing with their recombination in
a different order. Finally, I wish to draw your attention to a more
concrete example that plays with a plurality of sources to construct a
representation as reported to Humanist subscribers May 27, 2001.
John Bonnet has drawn upon the historical economist Harold Innis and
developed 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 courses.
Let me translate the trio construction, collaboration, communication, into
other terms. It means planning exercises that involve collective creation
and a record of the collective creation. It means fostering opportunities
for what Jerome Bruner calls "going meta". [Bruner, Jerome. Acts of
Meaning. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990. p. 55]. Bruner
The perpetual revisionism of historians, the emergence of "docudramas,"
the literary invention of "faction," the pillow talk of parents trying to
make revised sense of their children's doings all of these bear
testimony to this shadowy epistemology of the story. Indeed, the
existence of story as a form is a perpetual guarantee that humankind will
"go meta" on received versions of reality. (Acts of Meaning 55)
Before going meta as our parents might, we children like to receive
stories. There is the now pop saying "do you know where your children
are?" that can be answered with the not so pop phrase "where stories
intersect". Having students and teachers tell stories about how they
conducted a piece of research is well worth the time. I leave subscribers
to Humanist to tell of the reasons why the skill of story telling is vital
to their enterprises.
-- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/ivt.htm per Interactivity ad Virtuality via Textuality
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 07:14:50 +0100 From: "Osher Doctorow" <email@example.com> Subject: Re: 15.257 data and reality?
From: Osher Doctorow firstname.lastname@example.org, Wed. Sept. 19, 2001 11:17PM
Speaking of jolting students into reality, I was somewhat startled by the recent World Trade Center (WTC) events - sufficiently to prove that quantum entanglement (very important in quantum computers) originates from combining the Schrodinger equation of quantum mechanics with the three main types of fuzzy multivalued logics. See my contributions of the last few days and today on email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,au, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (or .com?), http://www.logic.univie.ac.at, etc.
I am trying to answer WM's question by suggesting that fuzzy multivalued logics are far deeper than has been previously suspected in physics, not to mention humanities. P. Hajek's (Czech Republic)Metamathematics of Fuzzy Logics, Kluwer: Dordrecht 1998 has the best presentation in almost clear English that I have ever seen on the three main types of fuzzy multivalued logics: Lukaciewicz or Rational Pavelka, Product/Goguen, and Godel. If the list is interested, I will be glad to translate them on the list into even clearer English.
Interestingly enough, the three types of fuzzy multivalued logics correspond to the distinction between Memory (M) events/processes, which in my terminology refers to those events/processes (events for brevity) which are influenced by 2 or more past times, Semi-Memory (S) events (influenced by exactly one past time), and Non-Memory (N) events (influenced by no past times). Examples of M events include human memory, human consciousness, quantum entanglement, viscoelastic material memory, many biological and economic processes, radiation, etc.
The distinctions between/among being almost totally past oriented, future oriented, and present-oriented, or combinations of these are extremely complicated, as most of us suspect (I think). I believe, along with David Deutsch and Sir Roger Penrose (both of Oxford), that human consciousness is key to numerous things if not to the entire universe, and in fact in my opinion human memory and consciousness are very closely related and are part of similar processes which interact with human perception. In some of my earlier contributions, I pointed out that Creative Genius requires mastery of the best of the past and only then rebellion against the errors of the past, and I have not changed from that view, but I think that arguing it from the viewpoint of fuzzy multivalued logics will be much more effective to humanist computing students.
I also think that these topics are quite important for understanding why indiscriminate murder is not justified by past killings or murders by leaders of a nation (the WTC being an example). As a long time anti-war person myself (except for World War II), I think that indiscriminate murder is enough to make warriors out of even anti-war people. It has to do with fear of death, of course, but people obsessed with only the past or only the future or only the present seem not to realize that most people do not want to die randomly or indiscriminately for something that they are not guilty of. Rather than die indiscriminately, most people in my opinion would ultimately engage in war against terrorists. That and industrial strength and political leaders, rather than purely political leadership, is why I think that we won World War II. We did not at that time refuse to fight because the American settlers committed genocide against the Red Indians (American Indians in American English) in the 1700s and 1800s or because of various other past genocides or atrocities.
Deep down in their subconscious, I think that people have an ideal way in which they would want to die as well as live. Humanities via philosophy and logic, cutting across the past and the present and the future, can help us understand why and how both in and out of humanities computing.
Osher Doctorow Los Angeles County (Earthquakes to Nobility) ----- Original Message ----- From: "Humanist Discussion Group <email@example.com>)" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "Humanist Discussion Group" <humanist@lists.Princeton.EDU> Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 11:02 PM
> > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 257. > 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: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 06:55:19 +0100 > From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com> > Subject: data and reality > > In "The Historical Imagination", an epilegomenon to The Idea of History, R. > G. Collingwood presents what he calls the common-sense idea of history, as > follows: > > >According to this theory, the essential things in history are memory and > >authority. If an event or a state of things is to be historically known, > >first of all, someone must be acquainted with it; then he must remember > >it; then he must state his recollection of it in terms intelligible to > >another; and finally that the other must accept the statement as true. > >History is thus the believing someone else when he says that he remembers > >something. The believer is the historian; the person believed is called > >his authority. > > > >This doctrine implies that historical truth, so far as it is at all > >accessible to the historian, is accessible to him only because it exists > >ready-made in the ready-made statements of his authorities. These > >statements are to him a sacred text.... He must therefore on no account > >tamper with them. He must not mutilate them; he must not add to them; and, > >above all, he must not contradict them. (rev edn, ed Jan van der Dussen, > >pp. 234f) > > As Collingwood notes, "These consequences of the common-sense theory have > only to be stated to be repudiated". In general, however, when historians > reflect on their work, he notes further, they seem to accept the > common-sense theory, softening the contradiction between what they actually > do and this doctrine by thinking of their interventions as emergency > measures rather than as the ordinary operations of historical research and > writing. In other words, the common-sense view remains quite powerful > despite the fact that no historian, or no good one, actually carries its > doctrine into practice. > > An exposition of similar problems in graphical representation can be found > in Edward Tufte's fine books, as you probably know. > > My question is this: how do we introduce our students, in humanities > computing, to the complex and treacherous domain that lies between data and > our representations of reality on the machine? How do we jolt them out of > the common-sense view that these representations are purely and simply factual? > > Comments please. > > 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/ >
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 07:15:10 +0100 From: Patricia Galloway <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: 15.257 data and reality?
There's yet a more direct way in which these issues are not just about how humanists represent reality: the very source material is now harder to critique than it was when it was fixed on a relatively permanent medium. In teaching archivists to preserve the authenticity (and to wrestle with what that is) of electronic records for permanent retention, I make sure that they have actually had experience of seeing the coding that lies behind representations, of knowing what drivers and clients are and how they work, and of actually working out all the issues in migrating files to keep them readable vs attempting to somehow maintain their whole environment over time. Archivists, in short, have a lot more to do in the digital future and a lot more necessity to examine their practices than ever before. People interested in these issues can go to a splendid portal site maintained by the National Library of Australia: http://www.nla.gov.au/padi/ Pat Galloway Graduate School of Library and Information Science University of Texas-Austin
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