11.0482 gleanings

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 24 Dec 1997 14:31:21 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 482.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (71)
Subject: gleanings

[2] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (46)
Subject: neurosciences to poetry

[3] From: Steve McCarty <steve_mc@ws0.kagawa-jc.ac.jp> (47)
Subject: A matter more of expressiveness than infrastructure

Date: Sun, 21 Dec 1997 16:34:59 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: gleanings

>From the Guardian Online for 18/12/97.

(1) Duncan Campbell, "Have a hammy Christmas", on the perfect gift for the
season, notes Irdial Discs, <http://www.pcug.co.uk/~irdial/>, in English or
German, Java-enhanced in any case. An avant garde electronic music business
in London. Interesting if only for the design of the pages -- which is very
good; make sure your sound card is connected up to an amplifier. There's
more here: in particular, a page on the world-wide phenomenon of the
"numbers stations". Irdial explains: "For more than 30 years the Shortwave
radio spectrum has been employed by the worlds intelligence agencies to
transmit secret messages. These messages are transmitted by hundreds of
'Numbers Stations'." In the U.K. these, the Guardian warns, are formally
illegal to listen to, or to tell anyone what you hear if you do, and quite
active, with new ones started up recently. Irdial sells a 4-CD disc set,
which offers 3 hours of broadcasts from these stations in various languages.

(2) Jack Scofield, "Netwatch", notes

a. Online translation, using Systran software, at
<http://babelfish.altavista.digital.com>: English to French, German,
Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and each one of these to English. Judge for
yourself, and report back particularly amusing results, please.

b. Award-winning educational Web sites created by school children, at

c. ACSES, which (breathlessly) "checks out prices, availability, plain
shipping time and shipping costs of your book at over 20 online stores with
over 20.000.000 pricing informations simultaneously!" at
<http://www.acses.com/>. Most Humanists will already know about amazon.com,
which now greets the repeat-customer by name, offering up a list of
recommended books. Somewhat spooky, that, but at least in my case the
recommendations weren't at all bad. It is nice to be recognised when you go
into a shop....

(3) Alex Bellos, "Called to the Bar",
<http://online.guardian.co.uk/three.html>, on Navigating the Bible, designed
to help candidates study for their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, with all that is
required, including of course the sound. "The CD-ROM is mot just useful for
Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. It would be handy to have around all year,
containing the blessings for all the main festivals. It is also possible to
get the reading for any week. You can't help but think that rabbis might
soon be out of a job." On a somewhat different note, picking up on the
thread concerning evidence, I have often wondered what the effect of having
in any field electronic access to all the source material that it was
formerly the chief distinction of learned scholars to recall. One would hope
that scholars then work hard at different things. Are there, for example,
any studies of the effects of access to the Global Jewish Database on the
day-to-day life of rabbis? Is there enough complexity in the data that one
must more often interpret than simply recall whatever it is that one can
recall? What happens in secular law when masses of precedents are so quickly
available? Has the practice of interpretation, sacred or secular, become
more rather than less necessary? Is it harder for the interpretationally
challenged to get by?

(4) Jamie Wilson, "Baby Reborn", <http://online.guardian.co.uk/two.html>, on
what is said to be the world's first stored-program computer, rebuilt at
Manchester University. There's a contest on for the most imaginative program
that runs on Baby, for which see the rules and other material hyperlinked
from the Guardian article. The CS Department's Virtual Museum is worth a visit.

(5) Keith Devlin, "The Net set", on a survey recently taken to determine the
sociability of habitual net users. The conclusions? "Net users tend to
belong to more, nor fewer , organisations that involve regular face-to-face
contact.... Moreover, [the survey] found that a lot of Net use involved
families staying in touch. Add the promotion of family values to your list
of Net pluses.... Far from replacing personal contact, the majority (60%) of
those who reported making few friends through the Net said that this
eventually led to a face-to-face meeting.... In short, Katz and Aspden's
research indicates that the Net is populated in large part by families and
social groups using it to maintain their existing relationships over long
distance, and people making new friendships that in the majority of cases
lead to face-to-face contact."


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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

Date: Sat, 20 Dec 1997 08:58:17 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: neurosciences to poetry

Some Humanists will be interested in a new publication of BioMedNet,
"Neurosciences on the Internet",
which offers "a comprehensive index of online neurological science
resources.... outstanding for researching topics ranging from the basics to
neurosurgery, psychiatry, and cognitive science" in approximately 4200
links. The fields of the Neurosciences, Neurology and Neurosurgery,
Psychiatry, Psychology, Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence are
covered. See the table of contents for details.

BioMedNet, "The Worldwide Club for Biomedical Scientists" provides a number
of services free if you register. As I recall, you need to style yourself as
a biomedical researcher, but it would seem that anyone with a legitimate
interest e.g. in such a fuzzily delimited field as cognitive science could
qualify him- or herself in good conscience. Apparently, however, the
neuroscience resource is outside the orbit of BioMedNet membership so that
anyone can access it without joining the Club.

If you do, however, you will find this month in HMS Beagle, the newsletter
of BioMedNet, a transcription of John Donne's "A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's
Day, Being the Shortest Day", available for reading (edition unspecified).
At the bottom of the transcription is a hyperlink on Donne's name to the
Java-enhanced <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/>, which collects
online resources from several places -- not a small amount of work. (Do the
Humnists whose resources have been collected know that theirs have been
gathered?) Luminarium itself is an online anthology of Medieval to early
17th-Century work, described by the editor, Anniina Jokinen, as a labour of
love by someone without the usual academic seal of approval. "Some write to
me skeptical of the validity of my materials due to my 'lack of credentials'
i.e. lack of a degree. Being a scholar does not mean one is no longer a
student, nor does being a student necessarily mean one is not a scholar. I
often admonish these skeptics to visit the site -- with their expertise they
should soon realize that the site is scholarly and aims for accuracy at all
times. Everything is verified from the authorities in a given subject."

If only we had more such people.

But back to technical matters. The question of how the creators of the
neuroscience resource can possibly manage to maintain such a site is an
interesting one. Of course corners of the multidisciplinary field it stakes
out, such as neurosurgery, do bring in a fair bit of cash, but still the
problem must be an enormous one. Is it reasonable to think that an online
resource so well positioned and well constructed that it became unthinkable
not to use it would be properly maintained by those who depend on it?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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

Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997 12:54:26 +0900
From: Steve McCarty <steve_mc@ws0.kagawa-jc.ac.jp>
Subject: A matter more of expressiveness than infrastructure

From: steve_mc@ws0.kagawa-jc.ac.jp (Steve McCarty)

Asia-Pacific as a geographical region spans nearly half the world
and houses over half of humanity in its bewildering variegation.
As the worldwide community of scholars can now become an
organized reality via the Internet, this series aims to provide a
Pacific Asian perspective for computing Humanists, with a view
to facilitating academic exchanges across the East-West divide.

Japan is the first large non-Western nation to achieve a vast
Internet infrastructure, as can be seen for example by using
Japanese language search engines and directories. In research
as elsewhere, Japan's wealthy economy draws the lion's share
of attention, yet this series does intend to introduce the Net
presence of places like Fiji and Argentina. The "Lion City" of
Singapore arguably surpasses Japan in effective use of the
Internet, but its entire population of 4 million is roughly half
the Internet users in Japan. Up to 30 million of 125 million
people in Japan could be online in the foreseeable future,
including nearly all the youth in education, so communicating
with them will be an important issue.

As to the current state of Internet use in Japan, a 1995 survey,
although statistically unreliable, showed that browsers of
a domestic site were 96% male, 80% under 35 years old, and
mostly with technical or scientific backgrounds. I translate
the gist of a vernacular daily newspaper article as follows:
Young women, who like to write and chat, hold the key to mass
acceptance of the electronic media. The Internet calls for a
youthful sense of play, a connectivity culture, freedom and
self-expression. For this to happen, the Japanese must go beyond
materialism and break the mental habit that forces everyone to
be the same. Pessimists argue that Japan could be isolated by
its organizational ways even on the Internet. Inability to
express themselves in written English will leave the Japanese
as passive recipients of the world network. The title of this
definitive editorial could be rendered as "Japan is weak in both
infrastructure and expressiveness." The technological hurdles
will be surmounted, but Japan's voice in cyberspace will still
be diminutive, so the challenge will be how to reach them.

Sources for the above paragraph are cited in the presentation
below, which also shows the impact of the Aum cult incidents
on the debate over vocationalization of universities in Japan,
and sees a worldwide convergence of specialist and generalist
knowledge as within the purview of educators:

"Revalorizing General Education and TEFL in Japan"
First Annual TCC-L Online Conference (Honolulu, 1-3 April, 1996)

Questions are welcome. For the best in 1998,
Steve McCarty

Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>