3.811 supporting the humanists, cont. (158)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 1 Dec 89 23:04:54 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 811. Friday, 1 Dec 1989.

(1) Date: 1 December 1989 06:25:05 CST (34 lines)
From: "Catherine Stella Wirtz " <U20678@UICVM>
Subject: user support

(2) Date: Fri, 01 Dec 89 10:36:08 PLT (36 lines)
From: "Guy L. Pace" <PACE@WSUVM1>
Subject: Supporting the Humanists

(3) Date: Fri, 01 Dec 89 14:39:27 EST (63 lines)
From: Jan Eveleth <EVELETH@YALEVM>
Subject: Humanities Computing Support

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 1 December 1989 06:25:05 CST
From: "Catherine Stella Wirtz " <U20678@UICVM>
Subject: user support

As a relatively new Humanist I enter this discussion about users
somewhere in the middle. Please bear with me if my remarks merely echo
someone else's.

Supporting humanities computing seems to me a kind of teaching, at least
when the support person is not just doing something for the user but
showing her how to do it herself. Some difficulties arise because the
support person (who may be a member of faculty within a department) is
then in the position of teaching a teacher. In my experience few
teachers want to be taught. (As one of my colleagues remarked, she had
spent years being told what to think and do, and now it was her turn.) I
have recently put myself back into the classroom as a student, to learn
a new language, and discovered again both my love for learning and my
terror of being put on the spot by the teacher. That terror is a useful
goad when you're no longer young and are trying to pick up another
language, but I recognize that to avoid the embarrassment of being shown
not to know something, many of my colleagues would never submit
themselves to instruction. Ironic, isn't it?

I have noticed something interesting in this regard about Humanist. Here
the role of teacher is constantly changing. No one is embarrassed
(though we may be embarrassed for someone making a fool of herself).
Something about the combination of isolation and intimacy of this medium
allows ideas to be discussed without our ordinary public faces getting
in the way.

Computing humanists have no choice but to become students again. Is
there more of a genuine love of learning awakened in us for that reason?

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------40----
Date: Fri, 01 Dec 89 10:36:08 PLT
From: "Guy L. Pace" <PACE@WSUVM1>
Subject: Supporting the Humanists

I read the comments about the relative difficulty in getting
faculty interested in BITNET and the attitudes between academics and
technical support people. I think the strengths or weaknesses of
individual institutions in these regards come from the institution's
idea of what role computing plays in administration and academics.

In my own institution, computing is considered a major tool in both
academics and administration (we have four sections for support --
administrative, academic, general services and network). The academic
support, called Faculty Support Center, provides specific help to
the academics. The Information Center, where I work, provides general
support to just about anyone -- even folks downtown, sometimes.

Getting people interested in using the computing resources available isn't
difficult, especially when the institution places as much emphasis on
computing as ours does. At the beginning of a semester (or a little
before) I get a number of new or exchange professors who need a kick-
start on using our computing resources. When they find out how to use
BITNET, TEXT1, the statistics packages, and other applications on the
mainframe system, they seem excited. Of course, I enjoy the positive

Short of getting academics involved in the administration and leadership
of computing services in the institution, there is little that can be
accomplished to change local attitudes on computer use and support.
If the academics don't like the way the MIS department works, or the
local computing services department handles academic needs, the only
solution is to get active in determining the directions of those

A determined group of academic users can have a positive impact on how
well computing support serves their needs.
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------63----
Date: Fri, 01 Dec 89 14:39:27 EST
From: Jan Eveleth <EVELETH@YALEVM>
Subject: Humanities Computing Support

I too have been following this issue with intense interest having
recently accepted a position titled Humanities Computing Specialist. My
degrees are both in the sciences; nonetheless, I have broad enthusiasm
for research and the researchers themselves. (The best people to work
with are those who are excited and involved in their work and are truly
interested in accomplishing their research goals.) Humanities research
is not foreign to me and while my interests are those of an amatuer in
many respects, it is nonetheless quite sincere and, I hope, professional.

Should persons hired to support humanities computing have academic
degrees in the humanities? Certainly this would be desirable, but I
hope not necessary since I believe that I am quite capable of addressing
the needs of the humanists and offering guidance, support, and education
when it's needed. What is the major role of the humanists' computing
specialist? The proximate role is that of one-to-one, nuts-and-bolts
computer consulting. The ultimate role is that of advocate/lobbyist for
the computing interests of the humanities disciplines in the univ.'s
administrative budgeting and policy decision-making process. Our goal
should be to offer seamless computing to all university divisions. If I
can work to integrate the current and anticipated computing needs of
humanists from all humanities departments with each other as well as
with other university departments (academic and administrative) then I
believe the university administration will have incentive to strive
toward a holistic academic environment--one glued by universally
available networked resources--and will allocate funds appropriately.

Should humanities computing support people be given tenure or other
incentives to keep their academic interests alive? This should depend
upon the nature of the position and the expectations of the unit that
hires the specialist. This is appropriate particularly if the person is
hired on departmental funds for the sole purpose of supporting that
particular department. In this case perhaps a tenure program is

I am suggesting that the humanities computing specialist be hired by the
academic computing division and have an additional lobbying role within
the academic administrative process as was previously discussed. I have
no desire for "tenure" in the academic sense. I chose to accept this
position rather than stay in science because I couldn't bear the idea of
living from grant to grant even if I should have been lucky enough to
have survived the job-market wars and secured tenure. And teaching in
the classroom is not my cup of tea. Surely there are others like myself?

Personally, job satisfaction will ultimately be measured by my
relationships with the faculty members in the humanities departments and
having their support in efforts to lobby the university on behalf of the
humanities programs for technology funding.

And what about advancement opportunities? Again, tenure and "equal
status" within an academic department are not at issue. My goals focus
on gaining administrative positions within the academic hierarchy in
order to increase effectiveness in defining and implementing the
dreamed-of networked university. Since such positions are unlikely to
exist (directing a computer service organization is not my cup of tea
either), I'll be happy working alongside the active and inventive
researchers in the humanities departments.

Jan Eveleth
Yale University