20.546 scholarly works of art

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 06:30:31 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 546.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 08:02:59 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: scholarly works of art

Neven Jovanovic, in Humanist 20.541, helpfully points out that the
product of my imagined allusion-machine would be a "work of art",
asks what value this might have for scholarship and answers that were
it to generate a map of allusions one could follow, then it would
have readers, and so become something for scholars to work with. The
algorithm of this allusion machine would have to be *very* cleverly
contrived, but let's put that aside for the moment. What about the
broader question of what computing has to do in mediation between the
humanities and the creative arts -- or perhaps better, how it
undermines that supra-disciplinary distinction?

Let's for the moment ask this question of reading in particular. If
reading is a creative act disciplined by the text being read, is the
function of literary criticism to stick to the disciplining
constraints of the currently accepted text? If a suitably clever
algorithm generates a welter of possible-world readings, does the
disciplining basis of criticism then shift to include the algorithm
(thus algorithmic criticism)? At what point, if ever, do we accept
the algorithm and start working on what it generates?

On numerous occasions I've been told, in effect, "Behold!", only to
watch dancing displays show cool stuff -- mostly bad works of art
from an artist's perspective, I'd guess, but I've also seen very
moving ones. Do we say, ok, fine, but still not scholarship unless,
by becoming an analytic instrument, it demonstrates a critical
function? But then wouldn't the artist say that we can of course use
it as we wish, but if that's all it does it is bad art?


Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
Received on Fri Mar 30 2007 - 00:38:14 EST

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