21.495 no killer app but work to be done

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 07:08:06 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 495.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 07:04:43 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: no killer app but work to be done

Yesterday I was in a meeting with some people who share my desire if
not need to reach the sceptics and reason with them about the
validity of what we do in the digital humanities. One of these asked
us to name or guess at the "killer app" that would at least make such
sceptics vulnerable to persuasion. The answer that came back was that
no such thing exists nor will -- because sceptical scholars will
always be wanting to see not so much whatever tool might be a
candidate but results from that or other tools which back up the
claims made. My contribution to the response was to stress the
quality of the argument made. Indeed, I'm inclined to think that such
argument comes first but needs to be backed up with evidence. There's
different kinds of evidence: (a) the disciplinarily specific kind,
that shows what happens when e.g. a particular prosopographical tool
is used to demonstrate the identity of a person from historical
records that were formerly thought not to be related; (b) the kind
which demonstrates in support of claims we tend to make that a
discipline or disciplinary specialism has actually changed course
because of such things; (c) the kind that records a given scholar's
metanoia on seeing what can be done in his or her specialism; (d) the
kind that results when many of (c) are recorded, studied and
convincingly presented. Any others?

My experience suggests that those of us closely involved can manage
(a) without much difficulty and can relate individual anecdotes of
(c) but that (b) and (d) constitute urgent work to be done.

What say you?


Willard McCarty | Professor of Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/. Et sic in infinitum (Fludd 1617, p. 26).
Received on Wed Jan 23 2008 - 02:41:07 EST

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