13.0423 what we need: a provocation

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Mon Feb 21 2000 - 08:17:59 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 423.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000 08:15:18 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: what we need

    Dear Colleagues:

    Various of us have made several attempts to determine how our practice as
    computing humanists might be improved if only we had adequate tools. As far
    as I know these attempts have not been terribly successful, with the one
    exception of the Text Encoding Initiative. In particular, efforts have been
    made to sketch out something like a UNIX toolkit for the modern humanities
    scholar -- a set of software tools a researcher could use to model his or
    her understanding of an analysis.

    Allow me to quote to you anonymously a very harsh criticism of these
    efforts. My purpose is to elicit defenses of what has been or is being
    done, to flush the worthy efforts out of the bushes, as it were, or to
    recall them to mind. Of course if you think the criticism essentially or
    entirely correct, please say so. If you think it does not go far enough,
    then please extend it -- and if you wish anonymity for your stronger
    statement, I am certainly happy to arrange for that. We need ad laborem,
    not ad hominem strokes!

    Here is the lash:

    >The perceived lack of adequate software has provoked several mostly
    >amateurish attempts to draw up a list of what is needed so that some
    >efforts at development could begin. Apart from lack of time and money,
    >these attempts have been flawed by seriously underestimating even the
    >sociologically ordinary difficulties in extracting ideas reliably from
    >actual practice. More specifically, they have not been framed to separate
    >the operations of scholarly research from habits formed by existing
    >software and so have boxed in the imaginations of those questioned by the
    >limitations of the tools we need to outgrow.


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratia

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