15.272 data, reality, imagination

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Mon Oct 01 2001 - 02:14:27 EDT

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "15.274 ALLC/ACH 2002 Call for Papers"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 272.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (75)
             Subject: Bacon, data and imagination

       [2] From: Michael Hart <hart@beryl.ils.unc.edu> (17)
             Subject: Re: 15.261 data and reality

             Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2001 06:45:39 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Bacon, data and imagination


    The thread you initiated on "Data and Reality" has spun into a line which
    has snagged some bait. Marshall McLuhan, admist his overblown
    speculations, in an essay entitled "Electronics and the Psychic Drop-Out"
    which appeared in Vol. 1 Issue 1 (April 1966) issue of the quarterly _This
    Magazine is about Schools_ reported about Edmond Bacon:

    Edmund Bacon, for example the head of the Town Planning commission in
    Philadelphia, a few years ago became world-famous overnight when he
    enlisted the aid of the elementary schools in solving some of his top
    problems in Town Planning. He got children in the early grades to study
    the plans for Philadelphia and to discuss them among themselves and their
    parents and neighbors, and to study their communities physically and
    geographically, and they came up with some fo the top solutions to the
    whole problem. [p. 39]

    McLuhan goes on with characteristic hyperbolic flare to claim that "It is
    clear that we are just beginning to recognize that children and
    adolescents are a kind of backward country of the mind that's been
    deliberately suppressed for centuries in our Western world". Now, whether
    or not it is the case that the West has built social systems based upon
    age segregation the infantilisation of large numbers of people, whether or
    not under such conditions it is true that pristine play is antithetical to
    displays of power, one would take from the Bacon example offered by
    McLuhan the hint that the successful deployment of imaginative acts
    depends upon communication. The discussion spreads. Communication is the
    lynch pin of collaboration and construction. Imagination depends upon the
    collective verification of observation.

    Now the Edmound Bacon example reminds me that I have reminded subscribers
    to Humanist that John Bonnet has developed a pedagogical exercise in which
    students construct 3D models from archival photographs and fire insurance

    I do not recall in the presentation of Bonnet's project a consideration of
    "exhibition potential". I ask because it is possible to conceive of a
    "science fair" of humanities computing. With the WWW, it is technically
    easy to organize inter-institutional exhibits of student work (but who
    has the time? i.e. who will be rewarded for their effort?).

    For all its bluster, McLuhan's vision is charming -- it just maybe that
    the "science fair of humanities computing" will emerge a la Gramsci from
    the organic intellectuals of a certain age (if the explorer, prober,
    experimenters are also encouraged to be communicators):

    This kind of learning, in the end, has nothing to do with an age level:
    there is nothing to stop small children from becoming very adept
    experimenters, graduate probers, explorers. It is the orientation of the
    society that matters, and our whole world, in shifting from the old
    mechanical forms to the new electronic feed-back forms, has already
    shifted from data packaging to probing of patterns.
    [p. 42]

    I'm not quite so utopian on the putative shift. I am however quite
    persuaded that life-long learning means learning from everyone regardless
    of their experience or naivity. Humanities computing programs would do
    well to consider their links with high schools and open their labs to
    workshops run by humcom graduate students for pre-post-secondary students.
    Conversely running such workshops for seniors and for mixed groups
    (without age segregation) would also be beneficial. Has anyone done this?
    The benefits are obvious: graduate students gain valuable experience
    [future employers are delighted]; a capital investment in infrastructure
    gets a work out [deans like this] and a reserve of goodwill is created
    [rectors, presidents, chancellors, etc. love this].

    Of course, such activities border on continuing education or extension
    studies and do not garner much points for the tenure-stream. It seems
    that the occidental university system at least in North America has
    managed to misalign individual advancement, progress through the ranks,
    and the public good. Humanities computing has much to contribute to the
    current debates about the "reinvention of the university". Humanities
    computing can play a leadership role. The question is not so much "who
    shall we serve" but "who shall we play with".

    As a para-academic, I remain hopeful.

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

             Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2001 06:50:58 +0100
             From: Michael Hart <hart@beryl.ils.unc.edu>
             Subject: Re: 15.261 data and reality

    I must add to these tirades that even the most scientific studies
    often are provably biased, in some cases even double blind studies,
    which should be invulnerable to the biases of their perpetrators,
    but yet appear to be biased overall.

    Our local pyschology dept. is constantly involved in studies that
    show just how difficult it is to gain unbiased data, even when the
    researchers and data gatherers are recruited from the outside.

    The expected results seem to percolate through the system, and two
    teams handling the same results, but expecting different results,
    always seem to report what they expected to get.


    So nice to hear from you!

    Michael S. Hart
    Project Gutenberg
    "Ask Dr. Internet"
    Executive Director
    Internet User ~#100

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Oct 01 2001 - 02:27:16 EDT