11.0561 importance of small things

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 3 Feb 1998 21:06:34 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 561.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Tue, 03 Feb 1998 21:11:13 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: importance of small things

My continuing meditation on small things surfaces at odd times, most
recently while walking home through the winding intricacies of residential
Leyton and puzzling over our blindness to their importance (i.e. the small
things, not the streets, though they are most pleasant). Very small changes
in the presentation of a text, for example, work great changes on our
perceptions of it. Compare, any handmade concordance with a
KWIC, then think on what has come about in our understanding of language
from the centering of the target word with arbitrary context on either side.
Has any comparable change in understanding resulted from what we would much
more likely claim is an important advance in humanities computing? Surface
and depth, the superficial and the profound, the playful and the serious,
the light and the weighty -- these terms betray a not always enlightening
set of prejudices. It seems to me that if we are going to understand the
significance of what we're doing in this field, we'll need to dwell much
more on the simplest things that our tools can do.


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

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