9.549 after Babel, Humanist

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 19:03:18 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 549.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Elisabeth Burr <Elisabeth.Burr@uni-duisburg.de> (48)
Subject: Re: 9.545 after Babel

[2] From: JIM HALLIDAY <lanjh1@bonaly.hw.ac.uk> (41)
Subject: RE: 9.545 after Babel

Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 11:04:05 +0100
From: Elisabeth Burr <Elisabeth.Burr@uni-duisburg.de>
Subject: Re: 9.545 after Babel

At 17:09 15.02.1996 -0500, you wrote:

>There is, of course, the problem of language, but
>experience has shown that we cannot proceed without a lingua franca, which
>now happens to be English. Are the conversations on Humanist so markedly
>N. American that they do not seem relevant elsewhere?

I don't think, that the problem is language and I don't think that the
conversations aren't relevant elsewhere. I for myself follow the
conversations on Humanist all the time, I get new ideas about how one could
go along, the problems involved in Humanities computing, new perspectives
and so on. Ever since I subscribed I felt part of a comunity which is
interested in the same field as I am and I need this feeling.
I find it hard, however, to make contributions, living and working in a
place (perhaps also in a country) where humanities computing, apart from
some special departments, mostly computer linguistics, is not a field yet.
This means that at my university there is no general discussion going on and
all my attempts to get one going, either with my collegues in my department,
or from computer linguistics, haven't led to anything. So I am very much an
individual, trying to teach and find out whatever is possible in this field.
The other problem is that my contract position is such that, besides
teaching, I have got a lot of organisational and administrative work to do,
and, and that is the basis of the contract, I have to write another lets
call it dissertation (after having done my PhD), which is soposed to prove,
yet again, that I am capable of doing independant research and which one day
might give me the possibility to get a tenure track position (it's called
Habilitation in German). And it has to be finished quite some time before
the end of the contract, so that the commission can do the evaluation of
this research and the lecture which should prove my capability of teaching
independantly can be given, at the latest, the last day of the contract. If
all this works out, then there might be the possibility of another contract.
If it doesn't then I and my family (3 girls) will be without an income, not
having the slightest possibility of asking for dole money, because my
present position (temporary functionary of the state, in German Beamte auf
Zeit) doesn't allow for this.
This means that all the projects I would like to do and could do have to be
pushed aside. All the plans and thoughts about Humanities computing have to
be kept at a minimum in order not to get involved too much. The function of
Humanist in all that is to keep me going and informed, with the hope to be
able one day to join in.

Elisabeth Burr
Dr. phil. Elisabeth Burr
FB 3/Romanistik
Gerhard Mercator Universitaet-GH Duisburg
Lotharstrasse 65
47048 Duisburg
Tel.: +49 203 3792605
fax: +49 203 3792612
e-mail: Elisabeth.Burr@uni-duisburg.de

Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 13:22:32 +0000
From: JIM HALLIDAY <lanjh1@bonaly.hw.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 9.545 after Babel

The comment about the passivity of HUMANIST subscribers outwith (as we say in
Scottish English) North America pricked my conscience. I have to plead guilty
as accused, although I follow the debatesin HUMANIST with keen interest.
Unfortunately, for a whole number of reasons(some of them mundane - like lack
of access to appropriate hardware/software) I am not in a position to
engage in real development work using computers. So for me, reading the
contributions to HUMANIST is very much a learning experience. Even if I
am not able to do much work myself, it is very valuable to know what
is going on elsewhere. I suspect that many subscribers are in the same
situation. This, of course, does not provide an excuse for failing to take part
in the vigorous 'tenure vs contract existence' controversy which was so
prominent recently. Certainly what is happening in the UK mirrors events as
described in North America. It could be that British academics are too ground
down by an increasing inflow of students not supported by extra resources and
by massive increase in paperwork and bureaucracy to have any energy left to be
vocal. Being inclined to find conspiracy theories attractive (especially on the
day after the Scott report was published), I reckon it is all a plot by
the British establishment to keep academics so busy with useless and
time-consuming tasks that they are prevented from thinking about things
that are really important. Perhaps I'm just feeling jaundiced at the moment -
today has been a bad day. I was accused by students of setting an essay that is
too difficult because it is abstract in its formulation and contains obscure
words like "stentorian". Is it naive to believe that students in their second
year of university should be familiar with language of this type and should
welcome the challenge of a demanding essay topic? They seem to be afraid of
tacling anything that involves complexity in case they receive in poor mark in
their assessment - much easier to play sage and go for a soft option. I'm
getting worried in case I'm beginning to sound like our Conservatives who
ramble on about declining standards.

I do agree, though, that the international nature of HUMANIST is one of its
most attractive features, and it would be good to hear from scholars from
the rest of the world: There are very few contributions from Eastern
Europe, the FSU and Asian countries. Most places now have E-mail, but
perhaps information about HUMANIST has not reached them.

Jim Halliday,
Heriot-Watt University,