17.823 what's needed

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 07 2004 - 16:49:38 EDT

  • Next message: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 823.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: <dgants@rogers.com> (48)
             Subject: Re: 17.819 what's needed

       [2] From: Robert Kraft <kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu> (23)
             Subject: Re: 17.817 what's needed

             Date: Sat, 24 Apr 2004 07:54:28 +0100
             From: <dgants@rogers.com>
             Subject: Re: 17.819 what's needed

    From: Mark Wolff <wolffm0@hartwick.edu>
    Date: 2004/04/23 Fri PM 01:26:38 EDT

    I am sympathetic to Steve Ramsay's point that computers allow us to see
    things we might not have seen without them. The problem, though, is
    getting through to non-Humanities computing specialists who do not know
    our methods. I put off a few people who read my dissertation because I
    used quantitative methods to identify a semantic field for the titles
    of adventure novels published in France in the nineteenth century. The
    methodology was not that hard: I assembled a sample of all the titles
    of novels by a group of authors who specialized in the adventure novel,
    generated a word list and then looked at the frequency of the words in
    that list. Eight authors produced over 600 distinct titles, and as
    paratext the titles could be seen to share common themes about what
    adventure was about. I didn't think I was that unconventional in my
    approach because Claude Duchet was doing the same thing without
    computers in 1971. I put off my readers because I used tables and
    statistical measures instead of what we might call purely qualitative
    interpretation. I feel that I learned something about adventure
    novels, but I may be very alone in that feeling. A lot of people are
    not prepared to think about literature analyzed with a computer.

    Steve says he and others who use computers are making valuable
    discoveries, and I would agree. Willard claims that computers open up
    new methods of inquiry and problematize the humanities, creating more
    questions than answers, and I would agree with this as well. But I
    like a lot of people on this list already sing in the choir, so
    preaching to ourselves may make us feel better but won't necessarily
    bring in any new believers. Williard brings up the question of value:
    "What are we doing for the world that is of some value to it, and what
    sort of value is this?" The problem with value is that you have to
    inculcate it, you can't simply declare it and expect others to buy in.
    Inculcation (or indoctrination) takes time.

    I don't know if anything new is needed, except maybe patience and
    persistence in what we're already doing. A century ago the Humanities
    were synonymous with what we now call Classics. The Modern Language
    Association of America was founded in 1883 to promote the study and
    teaching of modern literature which was at best a poor cousin to
    Classical studies. Nowadays when people talk about the Humanities they
    often mean modern and classical literature. Perhaps in another 100
    years the Humanities will necessarily include computers and the annual
    ALLC-ACH conference will be the required job market everyone attends.


    Mark B. Wolff
    Modern and Classical Languages
    Hartwick College
    Oneonta, NY  13820
    (607) 431-4615


    --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sat, 24 Apr 2004 07:58:01 +0100 From: Robert Kraft <kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu> Subject: Re: 17.817 what's needed

    There is probably a simple solution to this net frustration -- I just haven't taken time to research the problem. I find that in many instances my first court of appeal for information these days is google.com, whether checking my spelling (it's amazing how many people misspell genealogy!), or looking for vaguely recalled folksong lyrics, or for images of manuscripts and papyri. What frustrates me is the inability to limit the context in which target terms are found -- e.g. find "Frank" and "Smith" within a line of each other, or within the same delimited block (e.g. paragraph). So searches may get thousands of hits, when a restricted area search could provide the desired information quickly and effectively. I also do web genealogy, where this problem is especially obvious.

    So, if there are alternative web searchers that do what I want, please tell me. If not, this is something sorely needed.


    -- Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania 227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827 kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/rak/kraft.html

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri May 07 2004 - 16:50:03 EDT