14.0751 digitisation project? method?

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Mon Mar 19 2001 - 02:20:51 EST

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "14.0752 scifi ahead of its time"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 751.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: David Zeitlyn <D.Zeitlyn@ukc.ac.uk> (25)
             Subject: Memory lane: early digitisation project

       [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (57)
             Subject: two questions on method

             Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2001 06:43:50 +0000
             From: David Zeitlyn <D.Zeitlyn@ukc.ac.uk>
             Subject: Memory lane: early digitisation project

    Dear Humanists

    I wonder if you can help me track down one of the relatively early projects
    in the digitisation/retrieval of images:
    In the early 1990s I heard a paper in a seminar series at Jesus College
    Oxford. I think the speaker came from London and was discussing a database
    made from scanning a collection of several thousand b/w photos of fine art
    paintings. One of the interesting claims was that by reducing the image to
    a very small grid (?? 8*8 ??) you could search for similiar grids and get
    work by the same artist...

    I can remember no more. As far as I can tell it was neither the Kings
    College, Daidalos Project nor the Courtauld Vasari project.

    Any suggestions as to candidate pioneers gratefully recieved
    best wishes

    Dr David Zeitlyn,
    Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology,
    Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing,
    Department of Anthropology,
    Eliot College, The University of Kent,
    CT2 7NS, UK.
    Tel. +44 (0)1227 823360 (Direct)
    Tel: +44 (0)1227 823942 (Office)
    Fax +44 (0)1227 827289

             Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2001 07:10:56 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: two questions on method

    1. transferrable skills tranferring what?

    In the recently published proceedings of the annual conference of The
    Humanities and Arts higher education Network (HAN), "Subject Knowledge and
    Professional Practice in the arts and humanities", Dr Paul Standish
    (Dundee) addresses the problems attendant upon the current range for
    "quality assessment". He sees in assessment methods an unhealthy reliance
    on procedures rather than the substance of learning. He writes,

    "There is here... more than a suggestion that emphasis is deflected from
    the substance of what is taught and learned and onto the procedures that
    are involved. So also, from the student's point of view there is an
    emphasis on procedural values rather than on content: the student will gain
    information technology skills, enterprise skills, interpersonal skills, and
    above all transferrable skills. For all the air of practicality this is a
    move in the direction of abstraction from the real. It is no coincidence
    that ICT [Information and Commmunication Technology] dovetails so nicely
    with higher education understood in terms of banks of data and skills of
    information access (a reductive conception of learning how to learn). As
    content is surreptitiously downgraded, with consequences of which the
    student can scarcely be aware, the vacuum at the heart of higher education
    is progressively increased." (p. 4)

    Among other things, Standish's criticism of skills-training offers us an
    insight into objections raised by our colleagues to humanities computing --
    not a field because it does not have any content, so they say. There is in
    other corners of the academy considerable resistance to the teaching of
    method. I certainly share with Standish a deep unease about the marketing
    of "transferrable skills", but at the same time I cannot so easily vest all
    the intellectual value in "content" opposed to the methods one employs to
    work with, transform and understand whatever it is that one works on.

    2. method's not the thing

    In the Times Literary Supplement for 16 Match 2001, issue 5111, the
    historian Michael Bentley (St Andrews) writes in "Revive the Croaker" (rev
    of William Thomas, The Quarrel of Macaulay and Croker),

    "But 'method' is a second-order thing; it derives from deeper assumptions
    and forms a visible outcome of intuitions obliquely stated."

    This suggests to me that method should be taught with a kind of humility, a
    product of respect for the deep and oblique which we cannot perhaps get to
    in any other way. It suggests one reason behind resistance to methodology
    as a proper subject -- that it become an unqualified one and not a gateway
    to something else. It suggests a major intellectual peril to us, whose
    domain is methodological. Of course a variant of this peril simply comes
    with the intellectual life, yes? when a scholar takes the object of study,
    let us say the ipsissima verba as the place where meaning lies rather than,
    again, a gateway to something else, in a language of the unsayable. But we
    have it worse, because any givem method is an abstraction, and methodology
    is an abstraction of that. Philosophers handle the problem by rigorous,
    unrelenting discussion. But we are apt to flee from the method to the
    software were it is implemented, which from the intellectual point of view
    is all too likely a distraction, and worse yet if the application is a success.

    Hard to live, one might say, never reaching the horizon. Especially when
    one has to make a living by selling plots of land beyond it :-).



    Dr Willard McCarty / Senior Lecturer /
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities / King's College London /
    Strand / London WC2R 2LS / U.K. /
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784 / ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/

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