12.0200 gleanings

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sun, 13 Sep 1998 22:21:07 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 200.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 18:18:34 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: gleanings

>From the latest issue of the Times Literary Supplement, 11 September, nr.

(1) John Kerrigan, "The country of the mind: Exploring links between
geography and the writer's imagination", rev. of 5 books on the cultural
dimensions of mapping. The review, and the books it takes up, are about
geography becoming the study of "situated knowledge", and its transformation
to that from the post-WWII spatial science, "free from the approximations of
language and the bias of subjectivity", to something more like Strabo, as
Kerrigan notes. As with computing, mensuration is one thing, done with
instruments; producing a representation from these measurements is quite
another and involves many interpretative, selective choices. Then there's
the rich area of study in which an author's geographical engagement is the
subject for investigation, his or her geographical imagination. Although
Kerrigan doesn't mention Milton, he provides a perfect example in his
detailed use of 17th-C geographical knowledge when, for example, plotting
Satan's approach to the earth. The reason I picked out this review and
subject for our notice was the negotiation between mensuration and
interpretation. Anyone working in that trading zone deserves our attention,

(2) Alberto Manguel, "For the virtual reader", rev. of James J. O'Donnell,
Avatars of the word: From papyrus to cyberspace. Fellow Humanist Jim
O'Donnell, a classicist now serving as Vice-Provost for information
technology at the University of Pennsylvania (apologies if I got that
wrong), is an inspiring and eloquent lecturer on the subject, as I have had
the pleasure of rediscovering several times. This book of his, what Manguel
calls a "collection of random thoughts", is therefore welcome. The
impression that the reviewer leaves is that these thoughts are quiet,
unpretentious and well informed, though he reads in them "similar fumbling
good intentions" to those of Cassiodorus (about whom O'Donnell has written
"the most complete study to date"). "My own view", Manguel quotes O'Donnell
here, "is that we can expect no simple change, that all changes will bring
both costs and benefits, loss and gain, and that those of us fortunate
enough to live in such exciting times will be put on our mettle to find ways
to adapt technologies to our lives and our lives to technologies."

And a brief note why "gleanings" from the Guardian Online have quietly
disappeared, at least to date. There's my garden, of course, but I'd find
time if I found much of interest in the Online section. Is there
significance here? Does the relative decline in the number of special items
on computing indicate its progressive assimilation into mainstream news?
Such as the publication of the infamous U.S. Presidential affair on the



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Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
<Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
maui gratia

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