20.106 tools humble and beyond reach

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2006 07:27:39 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 106.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois (90)
         Subject: human uses for humble tools

   [2] From: "hinton_at_springnet1.com" <hinton_at_springnet1.com> (17)
         Subject: Re: 20.102 tools beyond the grasp of those who need

         Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2006 07:14:21 +0100
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: human uses for humble tools

Willard, you asked:

> But to my point. Does it not seem to you that sitting (or standing,
> or dancing) in a methodological common ground of the humanities, we
> offer its disciplines the kind of unity that Gould is talking about,
> and that one of our central roles is to make sure that conceptual
> tools needed for addressing key problems are developed and put within
> reach of all?

"put within reach" yes!
"conceptual tool" what's that?

Your recent call, Willard, for reflection on a quotation from Stephen
Jay Gould on consiliation lead me to
relay these three beads (in lieu of conceptual tools):

Edward Dorn
The Poet, the People, the Spirit (Talonbooks, 1976 ISBN 0-88922-101-4) p. 28
[from a transcript of a lecture given July 21 in 1965 at the Berkeley
Poetry Conference]
Now let me finish it off by talking about one more thing. I've got a
note: the world and the uselessness of
national boundaries. With the provision that any kind of one world
idea is usually a trick of
misunderstanding of what to be a whole world is. One world is not
necessarily a whole world.

If one reads "discipline" for "national", how does the notion of a
partial world align with that of whole
world and one world? For a humanist, the answer lies in some sense in
the nature of data structures, i.e.
representations and their relations.

Manfred Thaller
"Texts, Databases, [...]: A Note on the Architecture of Computer
Systems for the Humanities"
July 2002
Reminds readers that "objects intentionally hiding which of the
information they hand out to the world at
large are 'data', and which are 'derived from data' - providing
'methods' to access both types of

I find this the metaphor of withholding very telling.

I would like to apply it, the metaphor, to another distinction
Thaller raises: "While uncommon more
recently in older DBMS literature we find the observation that
<i>all</i> data models can in principle be
described in such a way that they can either be represented as a set
of connected tables, or as graph in
the mathematical sense (a network, for non IT readers)."

You guessed it, by means of analogy, I would like to suggest that
tables are withholding in their
operations; graphs, presenting. It is a simple characterization.
Regardless of its correctness, I introduce
it here by way of mere example to indicate the possibility that
certain representations are withholding and
others not.

Pardon the following table:
A whole world contains both types of representation.
A one world is the dream of a grand relational data base.
A partial world would be constructed from the wakeful behaviour of graphs.

Clancy Ratliff
"Literature Review Spreadsheet"
June 6, 2006
The author of the Culture Cat blog published an entry about the use
of spreadsheet software for
categorizing elements of a literature review. Evidently useful for
sorting information arranged as a table,
spreadsheets also allow for graph making -- tabulation also involves counting.

Such a humble tool as the spreadsheet reminds me that disposition is key.

If in the e.o. wilson world of genes and genomes, the occult object
on the route to the oracular array, in
the worlds of other artisans, there is a readiness to experience the
network "in" the node. The ever
expansive node. Ratliff adds an addendum: "Immediately after hitting
'Submit,' I thought of another column:
Technology. I realized I wanted to keep track of whether the
technology being studied was email, a bulletin
board, a MOO, what have you."

These three little beads were here presented in this ordering to suggest that

1) a tool may not be the same as a disposition (use of a tool)

2) hide and seek is a valuable language game (intrinsically valued)

3) there is a place for one-worlders in a universe of interchange
(the value of that place is sometimes

and finally

4) a conceptual tool is a "reading" and as such is open and within
reach perhaps not within the reach of
all but certainly within the reach of many and so by relay every close by

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
~~~ to be surprised by machines: wistly and sometimes wistfully
         Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2006 07:18:15 +0100
         From: "hinton_at_springnet1.com" <hinton_at_springnet1.com>
         Subject: Re: 20.102 tools beyond the grasp of those who need them
Just being pedantic, Willard -- Whewell did indeed successfully urge
the use of the word "scientist". However, the OED lists this
unattributed citation 6 years earlier, from an unsigned piece in The
Quarterly Review -- a sort of negative creation for which,
apparently, the world was not yet ready:
 >1834 Q. Rev. LI. 59 Science..loses all traces of unity. A curious
 >illustration of this result may be observed in the want of any name
 >by which we can designate the students of the knowledge of the
 >material world collectively. We are informed that this difficulty
 >was felt very oppressively by the members of the British Association
 >for the Advancement of Science, at their meetings..in the last three
 >summers... Philosophers was felt to be too wide and too lofty a
 >term,..; savans was rather assuming,..; some ingenious gentleman
 >proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form scientist,
 >and added that there could be no scruple in making free with this
 >termination when we have such words as sciolist, economist, and
 >atheist{em} but this was not generally palatable.
Received on Thu Jul 13 2006 - 04:33:18 EDT

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