9.470 what we are doing

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 19 Jan 1996 18:40:49 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 470.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Allen Renear <ALLEN@BROWNVM.brown.edu> (44)
Subject: what are we doing

Apologies for the holiday delay in responding -- I'm afraid even the
"patient laborers" among us may find the thread beginning to cool.

In any case, I did not want the trail to fade entirely before saying that
Willard is absolutely right about my peculiar omission of Humanist as a
forum for bringing the knowledge and expertise of our community to bear
on understanding the new technologies of communication. Humanist
has indeed frequently provided this sort of discussion, as I a loyal
reader, sometimes a participant, and for a while a co-editor, well know.
So the omission is astonishing to me too -- and too astonishing to be
merely an oversight.

How I could forget Humanist (and I wish I had not) must itself be
illuminating and the answer is indeed probably connected to Willard's own
remark that Humanist discussions are somewhat self-contained. The
substance of my complaint is not that we do not have such and such
conversations ourselves, that rather that there are conversations, and
other activities, that we do not participate in as fully as we should,
although the world would be a better place if we did.

I want to reiterate that my premise is that our community has enormous
contributions to make. We have developed over the years wonderfully
rich and deep perspectives on culture and communication -- and some of our
accomplishments are very profound indeed. But I still don't feel that
we are as connected as we should be to many areas of current activity.
In CHum I was thinking mostly of the "the current conversation about the
nature of the new reading and writing" that I saw being carried out
passionately and publicly by a variety of literary theorists, artists,
scholars, and others; although there are other arenas of activity where
our lack of involvement concerns me even more.

What is to be done? Willard wonders, in another context, if we should
attempt to make Humanist a "more vital instrument", perhaps a "podium
rather than a quiet retreat" [quoting from memory]. Humanist has a
mixed economy that works well and I would not disturb it by recommending
a radical change. And the "podium" image doesn't quite seem to fit.
But I do think that a congenial addition to the Humanist variety, and
one that would help with the problem I see, would be to increase our use
of Humanist as a place to caucus on our participation in the larger
political, technological, and cultural events in which we have
interests. (now I seem to be echoing recent postings from another

This has been a very exciting and rewarding time for computing
humanists, and Humanist has played an enormous role in making that so.
The future can be, should be, even more exciting for us -- and Humanist
is certainly one of our best bets for helping to bring that about.

-- Allen
Allen_Renear@Brown.Edu 401 863-7312