13.0308 disciplinary/interdisciplinary problems

Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Fri, 3 Dec 1999 11:58:33 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 308.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 03 Dec 1999 16:53:45 +0000
From: Einat Amitay <einat@ics.mq.edu.au>
Subject: Re: 13.0307 teething problems

Hi Willard,

As a PhD student I must admit you're right... But it seems it's not a domain
specific problem but a more general problem in academia today. The more diverse
the research becomes the less skilled people we have to validate/correct/guide

My work "sits" on the intersection between linguistics, NLP, HCI, sociology and
information retrieval (did I forget something +:o). Currently I have four
different supervisors/advisors - each is specialised in a related area but they
all hesitate to criticise when it comes to something not related enough.

The problem, I believe, is that traditional academic research relies heavily on
identifying oneself with a single community or volume of work, while in recent
years we have identified many "holes" and "gaps" between those formed
communities that need to be filled or researched.

I don't think the problem you are talking about will be solved within 10 or
even 15 years, but I believe it will only become greater. In my view the
academic reviewing process is the one that needs change and re-thinking. That's
my personal opinion, being a PhD student with a simple idea that closes
(maybe?) a crack between communities...


> In the past six months I've reviewed a number of projects in or touching on
> humanities computing. Some of these have been encouragingly good, I am
> happy to say. Some, however, have not. The situation that bothers me most
> is one in which an intelligent, energetic person of good will is simply
> left to fend for him- or herself in a university that sees fit to encourage
> work in our field but is not actually able to supply the people who can
> guide and judge it properly. I would suppose that the situation is only
> temporary -- holding true for the next 5 or 10 years, perhaps. The thing
> is, quite a number of people can go wrong while we're getting our act
> together.
> Take the case of a postgraduate/graduate student who is eager to apply
> computing to a discipline in the humanities. Suppose the supervisor is in
> favour of the project and encourages the student but doesn't have the
> knowledge to keep him or her on track. Suppose that there is no one in the
> university capable of or willing to take the student on. It's quite
> possible for the student to finish his or her project, submit it and then
> have the bad/good luck to get me or somebody like me for an external
> reviewer. Or worse, not get caught until much later.
> Take the case of a lecturer/professor who is enthusiastic, hard-working but
> not very knowledgeable technologically, who dabbles in humanities
> computing, then expects to get rewarded for doing work that he or she would
> never dream of submitting as scholarship in his or her field of origin.
> What then? What do we do about innocent or not so innocent dabbling?
> I have no proposal, modest or otherwise. Rather I'd like to see some
> discussion of how the few of us who know what's what in the field can be
> deployed to help out -- which might mean to agitate for universities taking
> responsibility. Departments can be reviewed, and are. What about the
> not-yet-departments?
> Yours,
> WM

Einat Amitay

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