11.0019 editing for whom/what?

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 12 May 1997 22:15:58 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 19.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: "Gary W. Shawver" <gshawver@chass.utoronto.ca> (24)
Subject: Re: 11.0018 editing for computers?

[2] From: John Roper <J.Roper@uea.ac.uk> (58)
Subject: Re: 11.0018 editing for computers?

[3] From: orlandi@rmcisadu.let.uniroma1.it (20)
Subject: Re: 11.0018 editing for computers?

[4] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (34)
Subject: editing for whom?

Date: Sat, 10 May 1997 15:42:26 +0000
From: "Gary W. Shawver" <gshawver@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: 11.0018 editing for computers?

Ian Lancashire wrote:

> I think we should edit etexts so that people can read them.

Do people read etexts? The main advantage of machine-readable texts is
that they are, well, machine readable. But this is not your point, is

> Pre-computing editors "tagged" texts in many ways--by assigning
> line numbers, variant readings, commentary, titles, etc. Should
> we not ask for browsing software that recognizes human tagging
> conventions, rather than require humans to recast such "tags" in
> a "computer-readable" form?

You're right to insist that we should have higher expectations for
text-analysis software, but whence is this to come? Does any software
presently available even read line numbers like people do? How does
such software know that an italicized word is foreign word, a book
title, or a case of emphasis? I'm afraid this is asking too much of
present technology. Could we not simply insist on browsers which
display or not heavily marked-up texts?

Gary W. Shawver

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sun, 11 May 1997 10:03:47 BST From: John Roper <J.Roper@uea.ac.uk> Subject: Re: 11.0018 editing for computers?

I wholeheartedly agree with Ian that etexts or any other form of text should be in a form that people can read. I would go further and say that the structure and implied meaning of a poem or a piece of text should be preserved as the author intended.

It may be inconvenient (or currently impossible) for an editing package to cope with Roman numerals, Cyrillic text, etc. but it just means that 'we' have to develop better tools.

My experience goes back to the days of a single upper case alphabet and simple numerals. We had to compromise then, but I feel it is a pity that we still have to compromise to the degree we have to.

But who can find the time and effort to manufacture a solution? Who can even specify the solution?

John Roper

On Sat, 10 May 1997 19:06:36 +0100 (BST) Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

================================================= John P.G. Roper, Director, Computing Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, England. Tel. +44(0) 1603 592382 Fax. +44(0) 1603 593467 Email: j.roper@uea.ac.uk

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 12 May 1997 08:27:48 +0100 (BST) From: orlandi@rmcisadu.let.uniroma1.it Subject: Re: 11.0018 editing for computers?

Non capisco perch<e'>, trattando di simili argomenti, si debba ricorrere a metafore, pi<u'> o meno pertinenti, e comunque adatte al cosiddetto vasto pubblico, e non a professionisti quali si suppone siano i corrispondenti di Humanist.

Non ho mai visto un computer che legge o che scrive; ho solo visto stream di bit che vanno e vengono, ed i bit non sono "romani" n<e'> "arabi".

Se poi si vuole porre la questione della codifica, si tratta semplicemente di stabilire (dal momento che la codifica <e`> sempre interpretativa, come hanno spesso sottolineato Sperberg e McQueen ;-) se si interpreta la forma materiale di una lista o il suo valore logico, eccetera; e si tratta di dichiararlo con precisione.

Le conseguenze saranno tratte dagli utenti.


Tito Orlandi orlandi@rmcisadu.let.uniroma1.it CISADU - Fac. di Lettere Tel. 39.6.4991-3936 P.zale Aldo Moro, 5 Fax 39.6.4991-3945 00185 Roma http://rmcisadu.let.uniroma1.it/~orlandi

--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 12 May 1997 22:00:57 +0100 From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> Subject: editing for whom?

In Humanist 11.18, Ian Lancashire asks for whom we should be editing (or, more broadly, preparing) texts -- for computers or for humans? An interesting question. What makes it especially so is the silent assumption that these two classes of entities are completely different. Of course they are different, but.... the computer is the product of the human imagination, a cultural artefact, which as a kind of automaton has a very long human-centred history indeed, and has a great deal to tell us about ourselves.

In the preparation of my own text, I find that all the important computing happens in my head, in response to the requirements of the machine, which in turn is a response to a large set of very human requirements. In other words, yes, wetware and hardware are different, but that makes their identity meaningful, and vice versa.

Many of us, including Ian, earned our stripes fighting against technocentrics who told us, in essence, to alter the nature of what we wanted to do so that existing hardware and software could process our data. Like get rid of accented characters, or Roman numerals, or whatever. Infuriating, and clearly wrong, and a great impetus for the foundation of more than one humanities computing centre. As progress has borne its fruits, however, the fundamental limitations of computing have for us emerged out of the general mass of technical infelicities and cast fascinating light on our scholarly problems. Is this not where humanities computing itself emerges out of step'n'fetchit support to become something worth pursuing in its own right, for the collegial support of everyone?

Then there's the question of whether e-texts should be read by people at all, or whether they should be tagged so that however one wants to see them for reading, software can generate the appropriate version. But since there are Humanists here who know much more about this part of the topic than I do, I'll stop here and wait for one of them to carry it forward.

Yours, WM - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801 e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk http://www.kcl.ac.uk/kis/schools/hums/ruhc/wlm/