3.179 new things under the sun? German Humanists? (86)

Tue, 27 Jun 89 18:46:13 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 179. Tuesday, 27 Jun 1989.

(1) Date: 27 June 1989 (47 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: humanities computing

(2) Date: Tue, 27 Jun 89 13:20:02 CST (19 lines)
From: "Robin C. Cover" <ZRCC1001@SMUVM1>

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 27 June 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: humanities computing

The discussion I mean to provoke with this note has occurred before.
Will those who are bothered by rehashments please forgive me? Some
things (I need not name them) are in the repeating not like proverbial
reinventing of the wheel -- though even in that case, the moment of
discovery is to the discoverer a great joy, even if others have done it
before. If it isn't, there's something wrong!

I have just been reading a paper in which the author argues that
humanities computing is not a discipline of its own and that, in fact,
it is doomed to extinction as the techniques it exploits become
assimilated into the disciplines it serves. If I follow the author
correctly, the conclusions I have just summarized are a consequence of
the (I think arguable) fact that humanities computing is
essentially a collection of convenient tools designed by one set of
people (computer scientists) for another (humanists), that it has no
unique perspective nor unified and consistent methodology of its own. I
say "arguable" but do not mean that I know enough to disagree
intelligently, only that I am suspicious and have some reasons for
keeping the question open.

If I remember correctly, when this topic was discussed before, people
focussed on the difference between quantative differences the computer
can make (do a job much faster and more accurately) and the qualitative
differences (do an altogether new job). Someone made the point, I think,
that quantitative and qualitative differences tend to be the same,
because jobs that are too hard for people using an inferior technology
will not only not be attempted but often not even be considered.

The British calligrapher Edward Johnston, dealing with the
relationship between the size of letters and their qualities,
used to exclaim, "Size is absolute!" He was certainly right
about lettering. Does the same principle apply to computing
speeds and the qualitative nature of what is done?

My suggestion about publishing syllabi in humanities computing
(apparently a project being undertaken already by Joe Rudman of
Carnegie-Mellon) was motivated by the same basic question. People are
teaching courses in humanities computing; perhaps interesting answers
could be found by seeing what they have chosen as their subject matter.
Are fundamentally new things being taught?


Willard McCarty
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------22----
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 89 13:20:02 CST
From: "Robin C. Cover" <ZRCC1001@SMUVM1>

A colleague will be spending the year in Germany (near Tuebingen or
Stuttgart) and I would like to assess the probability of him obtaining
a BITNET account for the year. I counted 143 institutions in Germany
having BITNET membership, and 230 BITNET nodes. But are there any
German HUMANISTS? Are computing resources available/accessible for
the scholar on sabbatical? Presumably this would invlove getting an
external user account for the year. Can any of our German HUMANISTS
gelp me assess this situation? Thanks.

Professor Robin C. Cover
zrcc1001@smuvm1.BITNET 3909 Swiss Avenue
convex!txsil!robin.UUCP Dallas, TX 75204
killer!dtseap!robin.UUCP 214/296-1783(h), 824-3094(w)