14.0817 methodological complaints

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Thu Apr 26 2001 - 03:05:55 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 817.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq@acm.org> (21)
             Subject: Re: 14.0658 black-box vs glass-box methods

       [2] From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq@acm.org> (9)
             Subject: Re: 14.0676 function follows form?

             Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 07:59:25 +0100
             From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq@acm.org>
             Subject: Re: 14.0658 black-box vs glass-box methods

    At 2001-02-09 17:55, you wrote:
    >A real example of good humanities computing that also borrows a technique
    >from elsewhere is Peter Robinson's use of cladistics (from evolutionary
    >biology) in the analysis of mss interrelations. His results for Chaucerian
    >studies are most impressive. In the spirit of Dr Hoover's example let us
    >suppose, however, that Peter had not done his work; rather a very different
    >researcher like B had, applying cladistics to mss study, demonstrating with
    >it that later, derivative ms. Q is the authorial copy and that oldest,
    >historically closest ms R has been copied from it! Ridicule everywhere, of
    >course; the researcher relocates to a remote island in the Black Sea and
    >becomes a goatherd. Nevertheless, one of us is not so easily fooled,
    >investigates and finds that there are no methodological errors -- the
    >application of cladistics should have worked, but didn't. A very
    >interesting research problem for us thus comes to light. The disgraced
    >researcher's work per se is worthless, but he or she has accidentally
    >stumbled upon something valuable.

    The problem is that your example cuts too close to the bone.

    The application of cladistics to manuscripts, as Peter has reported
    on it in the past, does in fact involve a number of untenable assumptions
    (such as that manuscripts never have more than two descendants) which
    render the work deeply suspect, even though suggestive.


             Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 08:01:06 +0100
             From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq@acm.org>
             Subject: Re: 14.0676 function follows form?

    At 2001-02-16 16:27, you wrote:
    >... (As some will know better than I do, a growing body of scholarship
    >has taken up the problem of how to conduct an argument in a medium in which
    >the reader ultimately determines the sequence of presentation. It's not at
    >all obvious that an effective argument is possible.)

    That's right. Perhaps it's time to ditch this codex idea -- it's
    an experiment that didn't work. Back to scrolls!


    p.s. and then to see Patrick Durusau referring to non-sequential
    reading as "bad reading practices" ... yikes!

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