10.0675 withering away & the heart

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 7 Feb 1997 19:55:18 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 675.
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: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca> (42)
Subject: centres and hearts

[2] From: Patricia Galloway <galloway@mdah.state.ms.us> (12)
Subject: Re: 10.0671 withering away?

[3] From: "Robert S. Tannenbaum" <rst@service1.uky.edu> (70)
Subject: Re: 10.0671 withering away?

[4] From: "Todd J. B. Blayone" <todd@cyberjunkie.com> (26)
Subject: Re: 10.0671 withering away?

Date: Fri, 7 Feb 1997 12:48:14 -0500 (EST)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: centres and hearts


In your enticingly entitled commentary you wrote "to understand
humanities computing one has to make it one's centre. I suppose this
could be done momentarily, in the imagination, but a professional
commitment is certainly a powerful stimulus." I was wondering if there
were other stimuli such as transdisciplinary solidarity?

I say this because although I do not consider myself as professionally
committed to the field of humanities computing I found myself
signalling to a private sector handler of large quantity of digital
speech files stemming from its interactive voice response operations
the possibility of making a gift of its archivable materials to a holder
of large linguistic corpra in a publicly funded institution. The next
step would be for the firm or a group of firms from the same economic
sector to consider seriously funding conferences and long term
research projects.

I know this smacks of spreading an entrepreneurial model and
directly captitulating to market driven forces. However what I want
the anecdote I report to do is to transcode in your statement is the
metaphorics of "centre". Upon first reading I equated centre with
heart, no doubt due to the locus of that word indicating intense
excitement ("stimulus" at the end of a sentence). Heart, brains and
courage are the three desiderata of a well-known film classic. Their
synergism may have much to do with professional commitment. They can
and often do exist in combinations outside of a profession or
discipline and far from a yellow brick road.

It is a generalized passion for intellectual activity that traverses the
paradoxical centre that acts as a node of power on the perimeter of
many circles. Of course this geometry of touching tangents is far less
conducive to a calculus of gain/loss than the alimentary tract
analogy, one discipline devouring materials produced by others to
produce something of little use value. Of course the digestive
metaphor and its products can be recouped in an ecological view of
intellectual production and consumption. I was wondering if the roles
of farmer, grocer and restauranteur are peripheral or central to the
institutional dynamics you are modeling.

A moment in the imagination can be a long time...

You've indirectly piqued my curiousity. I've got to go see if anyone
has put a comparative study of Virgil's <cite>Georgics</cite> and
Ovid's <cite>Metamorphoses</cite> online and what role, if any, these
classics played in the biographies of artists in support of land
reform in colonial...

>From life on the margin,


Date: Fri, 7 Feb 1997 10:28:08 -0500
From: Patricia Galloway <galloway@mdah.state.ms.us>
Subject: Re: 10.0671 withering away?

Professor McCarty wrote:

"to understand humanities computing one has to make it one's centre."

In anthropological terms, this suggests that one must have an "emic"
or "ethnomethodological" perspective, and while I would agree that
there are very significant ways in which computing tools developed for
humanities applications embody important new heuristics and do not at
all simply replicate old paper-and-pencil methods of analysis, I would
also suggest that it is therefore all the more important to apply some
reflexivity and to question the assumptions and implications of these
tools, just as the sciences must do when they objectify their means of
perception through computational methods.

Pat Galloway
Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Date: Fri, 7 Feb 1997 08:24:36 -0500
From: "Robert S. Tannenbaum" <rst@service1.uky.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.0671 withering away?


I agree with you entirely that as a field humanities computing will not
wither away. I would offer just two arguments (of many that I can imagine)
in suport of my agreement.

First, computing in general is by no means a mature science. Many
significant changes and (hopefully) improvements are to be expected. These
will have as yet unimagined possibilities for supporting the activities of
humanists. It will (continue to) require humanists with a deep concern for
computing to help us all learn how to use the new computing -- to lead the
way in humanities computing as they persue their humanities studies.

Second, if other disciplines that are even more totally dependant on
computers in their research have not outgrown the need for
discipline-specific computing specialists, why should we expect that the
humanities will do so? In my position, I and my group must provide support
for instructional and research computing for the entire university,
including all disciplines. I have at least as much need to provide support
for the natural and the social sciences as for the humanities. For
example, I have a Ph.D. physicist in my group who spends half of his time
assisting other scientists with numerically-intensive computing problems.
I also have a Ph.D. statistician who works with (primarily) social
scientists on statistical *computing* (as opposed to statistical
methodology) questions. The natural and social scientists still require
specialists to assist them, to develop new techniques, and to implement the
latest innovations, after their disciplines have been employing computing
extensively for forty years or more. Why not the humanities?


Robert S. Tannenbaum, Ed.D. 606 / 257 - 2900 office
Director, Academic Computing Services 606 / 323 - 1978 fax
128 McVey Hall rst@pop.uky.edu
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0045

Date: Fri, 7 Feb 1997 00:52:22 -0500
From: "Todd J. B. Blayone" <todd@cyberjunkie.com>
Subject: Re: 10.0671 withering away?


> it seems to me highly unlikely that humanities computing will
> disappear after the older disciplines have assimilated computing into the
> core of what they do.

Inasmuch as "humanities computing" and "the older disciplines"
share a common commitment to a particular technoculture, I believe this is
true. IMHO, however, "humanities computing" will become less and less
relevant as a younger generation of thinkers-- products of cyberculture
begin to reinvent the humanistic disciplines.

>to understand humanities
> computing one has to make it one's centre. I suppose this could be done
> momentarily, in the imagination, but a professional commitment is
> certainly a powerful stimulus.

There is little doubt in my mind that the few individuals who get paid to
practice/teach "humanities computing" (however this is defined by the
institution that writes the cheques) possess an unsurpassed understanding
of what it is they practice/teach. One might be foolish enough to
suggest, however, that the multitude of amateurs outside the centre
are, at least on rare occasions, less likely to miss the forest for the