14.0268 methodological primitives

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 09/25/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 268.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
       [1]   From:    cbf@socrates.Berkeley.EDU                            (6)
             Subject: Re: 14.0262 methodological primitives
       [2]   From:    Stephen Ramsay <sjr3a@virginia.edu>                 (22)
             Subject: Word lists
       [3]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>         (52)
             Subject: level of granularity & other questions
             Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 07:00:04 +0100
             From: cbf@socrates.Berkeley.EDU
             Subject: Re: 14.0262 methodological primitives
    Does anyone remember, except me, the set of little UNIX utilities that
    Bill Tuthill wrote at Berkeley about 20 years ago? They were dumb as
    paint, to quote one of my colleagues, and incredibly useful.
    Wilhelm, as usual, makes some excellent points.
    Charles Faulhaber	The Bancroft Library	UC Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    (510) 642-3782		FAX (510) 642-7589    cfaulhab@library.berkeley.edu
             Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 07:01:02 +0100
             From: Stephen Ramsay <sjr3a@virginia.edu>
             Subject: Word lists
    Willard's question regarding methodological primitives is quite apropos to
    my current research, since I am in the process of creating a general-use
    textual analysis tool (which I think of, in my more grandiose moments, as
    a free, non-proprietary successor to TACT).
    Much of what I'm working with right now involves the use of large word
    lists, and I was wondering if my colleagues in computational linguistics
    might be able to point me in the right direction.  How do I go about
    getting my hands on large word lists and corpora?  I am particularly
    interested in word lists that map individual words to parts of
    Surfing the web has turned up a few possibilities, but I wonder if anyone
    would be willing to supplement my scattershot approach with a professional
    sense of what's out there?
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Stephen Ramsay
    Senior Programmer
    Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities
    Alderman Library, University of Virginia
    phone: (804) 924-6011
    email: sjr3a@virginia.edu
    web:   http://www.iath.virginia.edu/
    "By ratiocination, I mean computation" -- Hobbes
             Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 08:10:04 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: level of granularity?
    Many thanks to Wilhelm Ott in Humanist 14.262 for his thoughtful response
    to my posting about methodological primitives, and to Charles Faulhaber,
    above, for his recollection of those UNIX tools. Indeed, the idea is an old
    one. I suppose one could argue that programming languages comprise
    statements that are methodological primitives of a sort and that the UNIX
    toolbox approach identified the notion quite early on. Certainly TUSTEP is
    an example of the kind of working environment I was asking about, and I'd
    hazard to say that no work along these lines could afford to ignore it.
    I'll confess to have said nothing about previous work and thinking in order
    to provoke whatever interest was among us, and now must beg your
    forgiveness if this seems a silly way to reopen an old topic.
    Perhaps the real question is, what remains to be done? -- assuming, of
    course, that we all agree the notion of methodological primitives is
    worthy. I'd venture to say that on the humanities computing research agenda
    there are at least two big items, or two big groups of items, metadata
    (i.e. encoding) and primitives.
    Francois Lachance asks what we gain from calling these things "primitives"?
    What I intended to suggest was a class of objects at the lowest practical
    level as this is defined by the operations of humanities scholarship. For
    practical purposes, black boxes (perhaps with switches and knobs, for minor
    adjustments) that a scholar could select and arrange ad lib. As Wilhelm Ott
    said in his message, lemmatising the words of an inflected language is at
    the moment not a primitive (...thus the discontent provider?) -- because so
    much intervention is required (as I know from having given up on a similar
    project in the same language). For this example, what I do not understand
    is whether it can ever be a primitive. I also rather ignorantly wonder if
    sorting, given enough of the right sort of switches and knobs, could be
    one, or if we could have distinct sort-primitives for groups of languages.
    Would a productive approach begin with asking at what level of
    "granularity" primitives can be defined, and whether this level is subject
    to change (i.e. to rise) with technological progress? Is there
    methodological value for the humanities in asking about algorithmically
    specifiable primitives? Is there simply too much variation in approaches to
    problems in the humanities ever to allow for significant progress beyond
    what has already been done?
    Two quite similar images stick in mind from work done many years ago. One
    is from some scientific visualisation software I saw demonstrated once: it
    allowed the user to construct a computational process by plugging together
    graphically represented sub-processes, allowing for various adjustments and
    interventions along the way. Another is from a lecture given by Antoinette
    Renouf (Liverpool, www.rdues.liv.ac.uk), who described her
    neologism-processor by a similar sort of industrial representation. Both
    have caused me to wonder if we couldn't have (with a great deal more work)
    something like a set of computational Legos to play with, and if we had
    such, whether we couldn't learn a fair bit by playing with them.
    Comments, please, esp those which open the windows.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)20 7848 2784 fax: +44 (0)20 7848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratias agere

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