20.469 time-machines and VR environments

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2007 06:47:01 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 469.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007 08:00:59 +0000
         From: lachance_at_chass.utoronto.ca
         Subject: Re: 20.468 time-machines and VR environments?


In regards to aims and objectives and encounters with artifacts, you might
read with avid interest a "trip report" by Matt Kirschenbaum about a
recent gathering that focussed on the question of preservation in terms of
the questions you are returning to and inviting us to turn to.


Shall These Bits Live? A Trip Report from New Media and Social Memory
(Berkeley, January 18, 2007)


> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 468.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/cch/research/publications/humanist.html
> www.princeton.edu/humanist/
> Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
> Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2007 21:11:24 +0000
> From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
> >
> In The Landscape of History (2002), John Lewis Gaddis speculates on
> what historians might do if a time-machine were available. He
> expresses skepticism about how useful such a machine might turn out
> to be, especially because of the limited perspective that an
> historian would get from being plunked down in some particular part
> of the past. How paradoxically time-bound he or she would be if that
> machine were entirely to substitute for an historical imagination.
> Considering historical research, he notes how much more historians
> are able to do than is atttributed to time-machines in science
> fiction. Citing Macaulay and Adams, he notes that historians have
> the capacity for selectivity, simultaneity and shifting of scale:
> "they can select from the cacaphony of events what they think is
> really important; they can be in several times and places at once;
> and they can zoom in and out between macroscopic and microscopic
> levels of analysis" (p. 22).
> Consider the possible analogy brought forward by digital attempts to
> do printed editions of literary and artistic works one better by
> representing the material culture in which these works are embedded.
> One might conclude that given the right sort of equipment, what we
> should really be doing is creating an experientially realistic VR
> environment. So by this way of thinking, to study a Victorian novel
> properly, for example, what one should have is a virtual environment
> that reproduces as closely as possible the various sets of conditions
> under which it was read (dripping tallow candles, dancing shadows,
> rattling of shashes and so forth). A time-machine of a sort without
> the cosmological inconveniences.
> Does not Gaddis' criticism of naive time-machine historiography apply
> (changing what needs to be changed) to our contemporary ambition? And
> if it does, what then should our ambition with respect to editions be?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities
> Computing | Centre for Computing in the
> Humanities | King's College London |
> http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/.
Received on Wed Feb 28 2007 - 02:06:49 EST

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