20.564 humanities computing / digital humanities

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007 08:12:01 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 564.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007 08:05:03 +0100
         From: "Joseph Raben" <joeraben_at_cox.net>
         Subject: Re: 20.561 humanities computing / digital humanities

One aspect of this problem of finding what we are looking for is
reflected in my experience with an article on echoes of Coleridge's
poetry in Shelley's early efforts. Donald Reiman, who probably knew
Shelley's work better at that time than anyone else, said that he was
amazed at how many of these echoes he had not noticed until they were
pointed out to him. It was this reaction that encouraged me to
believe that the computer, which did not know what it was looking
for, could call attention to similar echoes that have escaped our
attention because we have not been looking for them.

-------Original Message-------

From: <mailto:willard_at_LISTS.VILLAGE.VIRGINIA.EDU>Humanist Discussion
Group (by way of Willard McCarty )
Date: 04/10/07 05:57:08
To: <mailto:humanist_at_Princeton.EDU>humanist_at_Princeton.EDU

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 561.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       Submit to:

           Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2007 08:55:13 +0100
           From: Willard McCarty
           Subject: humanities computing / digital humanities

In a recent article, "On Theories and Models" (Discourse Studies 7,
2005), Alessandro Duranti notes that as creatures compelled to look
for patterns in the ambiguous data of the world, "we soon realize
that we are not all looking in the same way, we are not all searching
for the same answers, and we do not all start from the same place or
stop at the same point in our pattern recognition quest. This is due
to the fact that our epistemologies vary, in part, because our
ontologies are different.". He cites Peter Galison's anthropological
idea of the "trading zone" to support the positive effort to talk
across such epistemological disagreement so that scholars may "focus
on shared interests instead of epistemological
differences". Nevertheless, he notes,

>There is, however, a price for ambiguity. We risk forgetting what we
>were trying to accomplish in the first place and even letting others
>decide what we stand for. By publicly declaring the logic of our
>enterprise and the differences and similarities with other enterprises,
>we can be better judges of our own efforts and be in a position to ask
>ourselves questions like: Do we have a program? What is it like? Can
>others adopt it? Should they? What kinds of skills does it require? How
>are those skills acquired? Can they be taught? What kinds of results are
>our programs likely to produce? To what projects are they
applicable? (p. 410)

These words come from someone who directs a major interdisciplinary
centre (the UCLA Center for Language, Interaction and Culture,
<http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/clic/>www.sscnet.ucla.edu/clic/). But as
keepers of a methodological common
for the humanities, we too pay this price, constantly risking loss of
intellectual integrity, the more so the more popular our practice
becomes. Hence one of the arguments for a separate department, able
to devote significant resources to turning away from the daily
dealing in the trading zone to ask Duranti's questions.

Rather than rehearse that argument here, allow me simply to suggest
that we begin by making a distinction between the concerns of the
common itself and the concerns of all those who come to market there.
I propose that we put to better use two terms now widely regarded as
alternatives for the same thing: "humanities computing" and "digital
humanities". I suggest that these usefully suggest, respectively, a
singular, bipolar activity with focus on method, and a plural,
qualified group of disciplinary styles.



Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
Received on Wed Apr 11 2007 - 03:22:53 EDT

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