10.0504 dark side of humanities computing?

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Sun, 8 Dec 1996 19:49:23 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 504.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Attachment Research Center (78)
Subject: Re: 10.0496 humanities computing graduate


I wonder why everybody is persistently trying to view the positive
side of humanities computing, ignoring or depreciating the negative
side effects such endeavour might entail.

For instance, MOO technology which is used in some Universities to
create virtual worlds where one is encouraged to let one's fantasy
go unrestraintedly in full fledge has turned out to be an an adverse
instrument for pupils' performances. Many youngsters neglect their
lessons because they spend endless long hours at the Telnet site.

Since this resource is particularly directed to children or
teenagers -because of its very nature: I doubt that adults would be
willing to engage in such a naive entertainment- the amount and
quality of damage this can cause to our next generation is
unpredictable. (Some Universities have forbidden its use).

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not asserting that humanities
computing should be dispensed with altogether, or anything of the
sort. I am merely laying emphasis on the fact that we should consider
its pros and cons.

Most especially nowadays where Postmodernist concept of "creativity"
has gained the upper hand.

I would say that the pomo movement repels anything that has to do
with rigour.

To their minds, "rigour" stands for "enemy of creativity".

An astonishing contention. Famous counterexamples of both extreme
rigour and startling creativity immediately burst into mind:
Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle, Sir Isaac Newton, Leibnitz, Beethoven,
Einstein, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Faraday, Medelejeff, JS Bach, and
so on. To delve into the depths of an inkling that might shed light on
this strange phenomenon at the end of the second millennium exceeds
the purposes set out for this posting.

To make matters worse, the pomo movement views anything remotely
resembling any of those qualities that we, the representatives of
the sixties, enhanced as a valuable badge, as attacks to their basic
doctrine: that of boundless creativity.

The word "creativity" is in fact rather ambiguous: for to be
creative may mean merely using one's imagination, devoid of any
positive connotations. The way now is used and abused, arbitrarily
stands for "imaginative cleverness in making or designing".

Thanks for your attention,

JC Garelli

In a message 5 Dec 96 at 21:18, a propos of 10.0498 humanities
computing viewed, Nelson Hilton says:

> > A group here is considering what a possible "graduate certificate
> > in humanities computing" might entail, and are very interested to
> > hear about courses actual or imagined which readers think might
> > figure in such a program.
> Coming from the commercial world, I approach this question from what
> is perhaps an academically unorthodox point of view -- first
> consider real world issues, then determine if and how humanities
> computing can fulfill a need, and finally craft / develop a course.
> My conclusion is that Humanities Computing may be part of the
> solution to one of the most pervasive problems our society faces,
> e.g. boredom / apathy / lack of success in the classroom.
> There are approximately 5 million computers installed in K-12
> schools in the United States alone. By and large, these machines are
> used as expensive typewriters -- their potential as "teaching
> technology" has not yet been reached. Is it possible that searchable
> electronic texts, multi-media materials, the internet, etc. can be
> combined with a pedagogical approach that:
> * More effectively engages the attention of the student ...
> * Shows students how to construct and pursue discovery strategies
> of their own design ...
> * Imparts both knowledge and skills that are useful in life and
> career ...
> Before going further along this avenue, might I ask whether this
> line of thinking merits further discussion, is of interest to other
> members of the list, etc.?

Undoubtedly, yes, it is of my interest, at least. I think its
importance cannot possibly overemphasized.

Juan Carlos Garelli, MD, PhD
Attachment Resarch Center
Department of Early Development