11.0493 computing in the dept & in research

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 5 Jan 1998 22:29:10 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 493.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: "David L. Gants" <dgants@parallel.park.uga.edu> (43)
Subject: Technology in the Department

[2] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (19)
Subject: systematic and explicit

Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 15:47:42 -0500 (EST)
From: "David L. Gants" <dgants@parallel.park.uga.edu>
Subject: Technology in the Department

Greetings all,

Despite the myriad of problems and discomforts attending the annual MLA
convention, I find that it affords me the pleasure of renewing friendships
that have faded during the previous twelve months. Out of this renewal
process I often arrive at a "theme" for the gathering, a subject that
invariably arises in every chat and discussion.

This year's theme seems to be despair over the continuing indifference to
technology found in most departments. The theme manifested itself in a
variety of subplots, but the overriding feeling was one of resignation verging
on hopelessness. Those on the market were discouraged that this year's job
advertisements rarely mentioned technology (outside Composition and Rhetoric),
and then the key phrase seemed to be World Wide Web. Interviewers too seemed
uninterested in the subject, aside from the occasional reference to e-mail or
Web pages. Those who have been active in using digital resources noticed that
sessions on technology prompt the same audience responses as in past years,
usually a variation of "Gee, I really ought to try that." Those who pursue
research within the broad field of humanities computing report continued
disregard for their efforts in terms of promotion and tenure. Only my
colleagues who have left academia for the private sector seemed happy and
prosperous. By the time I boarded my Air Canada flight back to Atlanta, I
felt rather like Trevisan fleeing the Cave of Despair.

Now, I confess I have often taken the zealous attitude of the convert when
discussing technology with colleagues in my own department. If only they
would open their minds to the healing power of computers, I think, as if
I were a fundamentalist healer trying to invoke a born-again experience. I
fear such an evangelical approach has sparked few to take up the new, white,
digital robe--indeed, some look at me as if I were asking them to grab a

My Toronto experience has prompted me to rethink my zealotry. Perhaps it's
time to drop the reformer stance and work instead on a quiet, collaborative
strategy. My New Years resolution, then, is to create opportunities within my
department and college that gently encourage the introduction of humanities
computing into teaching and research. I'll try to come up with projects
designed to get traditional- and technology-minded scholars working together.
I'll look for ways to develop training programs that fit into the typical
academic overbooked calendar. And I'll resist the urge to play John the
Baptist in the common room!

Best wishes to all for 1998, and I'd welcome responses from anyone who would
like to share similar resolutions.

Dave Gants

David L. Gants *** Department of English *** Park Hall
 University of Georgia *** Athens, GA *** 30602-6205
     dgants@english.uga.edu *** (706) 542-1261

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 05 Jan 1998 08:05:57 +0000 From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> Subject: systematic and explicit

In the process of writing about my own research, I keep trying to simplify what I say it is all about, and in particular how my computational methods have affected the nature of the work. As a New Year's greeting (under the gloom of wet and blustery skies) let me try out one version of one part on you. Reactions will be most welcome.

For the sake of simplicity, consider only textual computing. Then would it be fair to say that a project that uses computational methods for analysis differs methodologically from one that does not in that the former is systematic, explicit and exhaustively detailed? Of course one can use computational methods in an unsystematic way, hide how one does what one does and give much of the detail a miss, but I am assuming that the project in question goes as far as one can to follow the methodological contours of the machine, as it were.


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/humanities/cch/wlm/>

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