3.76 scholarly microcomputing (110)

Tue, 30 May 89 20:29:12 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 76. Tuesday, 30 May 1989.

(1) Date: Tue, 30 May 89 16:32:02 EDT (66 lines)
From: Ellen Germain <EJGCU@CUVMB>
Subject: micro applications for scholarly research

(2) Date: Tue, 30 May 89 10:37:37 EDT (24 lines)
From: elli@harvunxw.BITNET (Elli Mylonas)
Subject: What is Perseus

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 30 May 89 16:32:02 EDT
From: Ellen Germain <EJGCU@CUVMB>
Subject: micro applications for scholarly research

First, my thanks to everyone who has responded to my request for micro
applications for scholarly research. I'm also passing the responses
on to the person in my dept. who originally asked me about this.

>Meanwhile, I wonder if you would be willing to articulate your
>reasons for wishing to attract humanities professors to com-
>puters. We all know that there are good reasons indeed, but what
>do you plan to do with these electronic innocents once you have
>enticed them to the micros? The answer to that question could
>help prompt additional suggestions to your request.
>Daniel Uchitelle <MLAOD@CUVMB>
>Modern Language Association

I think part of the problem (and the reason my question was rather
broad and vague) is that no one here really knows what to do with
humanities professors once they've been persuaded to use micros.
There's a feeling that they *should* be lured towards computers, but
there's no direction about what to do next. There's a general
feeling that email will be a big attraction once people get started
with it; also being able to exchange documents is a big draw. Beyond
that, there is general blankness. Bibliographic databases are already
available here, and undoubtedly need to be advertised and touted more.
Databases of information such as the Medieval and Early Modern DB are
very useful, but not enough exist, and professors don't know about them.

In the course of trying to figure out what to do with humanities profs
and computers, the question "What do humanities scholars do?" was posed to
me by a colleague here at the Computer Center. I'm both a systems programmer
and a graduate student in the English Department (medieval literature, esp.
Arthurian romance), and I sat down and thought about it. I read a lot.
I read primary texts, then I read secondary texts, and then I think about
the subject, trying to come up with new insights/interpretations/whatever.
I do a lot of research.

Unlike a scientist, I don't need a computer on which to model things,
to analyze large amounts of data, or to control my experiments.
(I know, some literary scholars do more quantitative work using
programs such as WordCruncher). But I basically use a computer for
word-processing and communicating with colleagues. I use online
bibliographies, and would love to use other DBs, but it seems that
there aren't many. It almost seems that until a critical mass of
information has been put online in a format that everyone can access
and use, computers can't help me do my research except insofar as
word-processing programs help me organize and revise my writing more easily.
(And I'm not putting down WP at all -- I can't imagine using a typewriter
any more!)

I try to push humanities computing in the computer center, and computers
in the English Dept., but most of the applications are instructional, not
research oriented. There are many opportunites for computers on
the instructional side, but I feel there's a certain dearth as far as
helping with scholarly research; and that that may be because there really
isn't much more computers *can* do to help at this point. What does
anyone else think?

Ellen J. Germain
Columbia University

Internet: ejgcu@cuvmb.cc.columbia.edu
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------27----
Date: Tue, 30 May 89 10:37:37 EDT
From: elli@harvunxw.BITNET (Elli Mylonas)
Subject: What is Perseus

This is a *very* short note to correct a misunderstanding that was
expressed in Ellen Germain's note of Wed, May 24.
As one of those who are intimately involved in the design, care
and nurturance of the Perseus Project, I would like to say that
Perseus is not just an instructional program, but rather
is modeled on the library.
It will contain primarily well structured data, and also
ways to navigate throught it intelligently. It is *not* instructional
software that is predestined for any one particular use.
Our goal is to create an environment for studying Classical Greek
Civilization that will be useful not only to the student but to the scholar,
and in which readers, instructors and researchers can make create
their own trails and annotations.
So, Perseus is not only a research tool, but one that may be used to
show students what research is all about.
Another goal of Perseus is to bring closer together the software that is
used for teaching and research, since those two activities are often
two sides of the same coin.

--Elli Mylonas, Managing Editor, Perseus Project