3.443 no more hearts (62)

Thu, 7 Sep 89 22:11:37 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 443. Thursday, 7 Sep 1989.

Date: 7 September 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: both horns are sharp, with body parts overhung

Dear Colleagues:

This editorial is a short course the aim of which is to demonstrate some
of the interesting characteristics of an electronic seminar. The
immediate cause is the discussion on "strayed hearts", which has
provoked the following opposed responses.

On the one hand (from Bob Sinkewicz, sinkewicz@utorepas):

"PLEASE could we have an end to the discussion of displaced hearts
and stick to topics with at least some relevance to Humanities

but on the other (from Daniel Boyarin, boyarin@taunivm):

"...couldn't you perhaps just code
the items so that people can skip over the ones that do not
deal with computers. I actually find your subject headings
sufficient to let me know which ones to skip. For me, the
idea of a computerized netowrk of humanists is even more important
than a network on computers in the humanities."

Then, there's complaint leavened by wit (from Michael Ossar, klo@ksuvm):

"It appears from James O'Donnell's message and from the strayed hearts
discussion that the sun will never set on the body parts of
the British Empire (nor on the debate about them)."

As we've observed before, the electronic seminar is semiotically
impoverished. What might well have been settled sublimally, by sounds
and gestures, is forced into articulate speech. In my view, the fact
that humanists are talking in this way is sufficiently well attested, so
that we can now focus on what is being said. In terms of subject matter,
Humanist's bailiwick is computing in the humanities, not life in general,
not body parts in particular. The use of Humanist to ask non-computing
questions, and so to provoke non-computing discussions and answers,
remains interesting nevertheless, don't you think? So, from this
I draw the lesson that body parts have had their day, that similar
things should likely have theirs, but that we have to be sensitive
to the point at which a discussion has lost its mandate and begun
aimlessly to wander or otherwise to overtax the patience.

Electronic discourse continues to fascinate me. I'm with Milton: a trace
of our former state remains. If we don't engage in babylonian chatter,
what other chance will we have to hear truth? From silence? From
talk carefully regulated by the internal censor?

Willard McCarty