20.490 fixing the MLA's problem

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2007 09:17:35 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 490.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Ms Mary Dee Harris <marydeeh_at_yahoo.com> (325)
         Subject: Re: 20.485 fixing the MLA's problem

   [2] From: Del Thomas Ph D <deltom_at_comcast.net> (202)
         Subject: Re: 20.485 fixing the MLA's problem

   [3] From: lachance_at_chass.utoronto.ca (29)
         Subject: The MLA report and who's problem?

         Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2007 08:53:58 +0000
         From: Ms Mary Dee Harris <marydeeh_at_yahoo.com>
         Subject: Re: 20.485 fixing the MLA's problem

I am reminded by these stories of my visit to the
Graduate Advisor back in 1969 when I was trying to get
a form signed that I had passed the foreign language
requirements for Ph.D. candidacy. My thesis on
computer collation of Dylan Thomas' manuscript poetry
had been approved by my committee so all the man had
to do was sign the form. However I was seven months
pregnant and had the audacity to consider using
computers to study literature -- two strikes against
me, obviously.

The professor leaned back in his chair and looked at
me from under his bushy white eyebrows and said,
"Young lady, you are trying to destroy literature!"

I pointed out that he just needed to sign the form,
which he did. I went ahead and got my Ph.D. from the
University of Texas at Austin in English Literature
with a second field in Computer Science, despite those

And I believe that literature has been safe from any
attempts on my part! I just wish things had changed
more since then.

Mary Dee Harris, Ph.D.
Chief Language Officer
Catalis, Inc.
Austin, Texas

         Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2007 08:54:29 +0000
         From: Del Thomas Ph D <deltom_at_comcast.net>
         Subject: Re: 20.485 fixing the MLA's problem

These comments remind me of the days when you could be given a
detention for using a ball point pen. Later I found that
my son could not turn in a paper that was done on a word
processor....dot matrix print. It had to be hand written or typed.
The school thought they were making sure it was the students
work....like a parent couldn't type it. The digital is like much new
technology considered unauthentic or too easy. Or even performance
enhancing like steroids.
Richard Powers author of The Echo Maker claims that his use of voice
to text is more authentic than manual story telling.
There are those who claim that digital photography will be closer to
the eye. And many will spend big bucks for 1080p.

Are not educational systems are often more about social control than
learning? Learning is associated with play, experimentation
and the extended juvenile phase. This means extended
adolescence..... those who are often the early adopters the uncommitted.

On the other side there are old heads that are young at heart.......
a second childhood if you would. All of this is very threatening to
teaching and expertize who may see youth as the barbarians at the
gate long after the gate is gone. It is the social equivalent of phantom limb.

Rejection of digital tools are an easy excuse.


         Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2007 08:56:22 +0000
         From: lachance_at_chass.utoronto.ca
         Subject: The MLA report and who's problem?


I find it interesting that you picked up the posting by Ian Lancashire
quoting some numbers from and MLA report


in your Town Crier posting and welded it to anecdote and introduced the
tricky word "problem" in the subject line.

Percentages tell a different story than absolute figures.
Absolute figures and percentages from a time series tell a different story.
Times series mapped against investments tell yet a different story.
Furthermore not all academics belong to the MLA, any comparators by
geography or discipline?

Nothwithstanding the numbers, what does it mean to evaluate an electronic

When we create and share files are we always conscious of

Metadata standards
Revision histories
Platform independence
Rights management

Just how does one get experience in evaluating these and other aspects of
electronic resources?

It takes time to produce good scholarship, electronic or otherwise. One of
the equally astounding figures in the MLA report is what could be called
the churn rate: "The MLA survey showed that well over 20% of tenure-track
faculty members leave the departments that originally hired them before
they come up for tenure." And if you wonder why consider this: "Over 62%
of all departments report that publication has increased in importance in
tenure decisions over the last ten years."

Those MLA figures can be read as a success story: success in retaining
talent and the growth of expertise in a less than conducive climate.
Received on Tue Mar 06 2007 - 04:25:48 EST

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