11.0045 CS and the humanities

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 19 May 1997 21:59:20 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 45.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org> (19)
Subject: Re: 11.0039 CS and the humanities

[2] From: "Robert S. Tannenbaum" <rst@pop.uky.edu> (16)
Subject: Re: 11.0036 CS, the humanities and AI

Date: Sun, 18 May 1997 19:41:35 -0700
From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org>
Subject: Re: 11.0039 CS and the humanities

John Unsworth writes:

> I guess the lesson would be that meaningful collaboration and
> cross-disciplinary understanding is possible, but (as with all good
> things) it depends more on the character and vision of individuals
> than
> on institutional structures or formal initiatives.

Yes, John is right that there are exceptions (thank goodness) to my
complaint! And Bill Wulf is an exceptional person in many ways
including having the foresight to assist in building such a strong
program as UVA's. And there is also a new generation of humanists and
computer scientists so we should hope for the best in the future.

Mary Dee

Mary Dee Harris, Ph.D.   512-477-7213
Language Technology, Inc.  512-477-7351 (fax)
2415 Griswold Lane   mdharris@acm.org
Austin, TX 78703   mdharris@aol.com

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 10:50:44 -0500 From: "Robert S. Tannenbaum" <rst@pop.uky.edu> Subject: Re: 11.0036 CS, the humanities and AI

> [1] From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org> (24) > > >We as humanists do not always express our problems in the >sort of rational, logical, and formalistic manner that the CS community >is used to. But the CS folks often are not looking for problems to solve >outside their labs, as well. >

Mary Dee's note brought to mind a recent provocative article (Peter Wegner. "Why Interaction is More Powerful than Algorithms." Communications of the ACM. 40(5), May, 1997, pp. 80-91), which I just read.

An interesting redefinition of computer science, which could be of considerable importance to humanities computing, may be forming around the concept of interactions, as opposed to algorithms. Wegner asserts that "interaction is a more powerful paradigm than rule-based algorithms for computer problem-solving, overturning the prevailing view that all computing is expressible as algorithms." He explains that much of modern computing cannot be modeled in terms of a Turing machine, that is, a prespecified set of instructions that will eventually come to a halt when completed. Rather, interactive systems are dependent upon their history (the sequence of interactions) and they can "learn" and adapt over time based upon their "experience."

Humanists have know this for several decades, but have been constrained by the prevailing computer science paradigms.

Bob 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