21.168 lessons from physics and biology

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2007 07:06:21 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 168.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: "hinton_at_springnet1.com" <hinton_at_springnet1.com> (6)
         Subject: Re: 21.166 lessons from physics and biology?

   [2] From: "Patricia R. Bart" <prb8b_at_virginia.edu> (28)
         Subject: Physics : Biology / Computing : Humanities

         Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2007 06:56:23 +0100
         From: "hinton_at_springnet1.com" <hinton_at_springnet1.com>
         Subject: Re: 21.166 lessons from physics and biology?

>"is the connection one of analogy
>(how language is being used) or is the connection
>an organic, that is a genetic, one (a
>demonstrable kinship)?" Is biology more of a friend
>to us than physics? More *than* a friend?

Since language relationships can demonstrably be of either kind, the
question is not well put.

         Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2007 06:56:52 +0100
         From: "Patricia R. Bart" <prb8b_at_virginia.edu>
         Subject: Physics : Biology / Computing : Humanities

Dear Willard,

As a textual critic who has worked on one of the most intractable
manuscripts in the Piers Plowman tradition, I can say only that
humanities computing has been both indispensable to the project and
imperfectly suited to it in its present conception in my
field. Things are getting better, but my own thought is that we have
a continuous project ahead of us in suiting the computing to the
phenomena--the physics to the biology on your analogy.

Schemes for encoding, for example, get worked out based on some of
the evidence and some of the goals--usually that at the crest of the
bell curve--after which they can be very difficult to modify. The
elegance of these encoding schemes--essential to their proper
function on the computing side and also to the rigor with which the
encoding can be applied to observed phenomena--can really falsify
what is going on in a manuscript in relation to its text. Such
problems can only be multiplied if fields other than codico-textual
criticism are taken into account.

We're still a long way from appreciating manuscript evidence in
relation to the text computationally, though we are moving in that
direction now in ways that we were not even three years ago.

Documentation of my project is at:
http://www.digitalmedievalist.org/article.cfm?RecID=10 . At the time
it was written, TEI manuscript encoding was not yet supporting study
of the text in direct relation to the codex. It now seems to be on
that general path. But a slightly more inductive spirit among those
in computer science would be as salutary as a slightly more deductive
one on the part of those thinking of applying computing to their observations.

Patricia Bart
The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive
Received on Tue Jul 24 2007 - 04:28:30 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Tue Jul 24 2007 - 04:28:30 EDT