15.492 creatures that gyre and gimble

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Thu Feb 07 2002 - 02:56:48 EST

  • Next message: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty : "15.494 TEI call for participation"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 492.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Thu, 07 Feb 2002 07:51:40 +0000
             From: "Mary Dee Harris" <mdharris@acm.org>
             Subject: Re: 15.489 tools & mascots

    Francois has attributed a REAL animal as the snipe that I suggested.
    However what I had in mind was the elusive (or is it illusive) snipe that we
    hunted at camp on snipe hunts! In this hunt a group of children are given
    a cloth bag and sent out into the woods to trap the snipe, which is in fact
    an imaginary rodent-type animal that the adults have made up. This
    deception has continued for generations. In fact I recently saw a re-run of
    the adult cartoon show, King of the Hill, with a snipe hunt as part of an
    initiation for the boys.

    The idea behind my suggestion was that (tongue in cheek) perhaps we're
    pursuing an imaginary goal -- one that we all agree on and pass down from
    generation to generation! Such ephemera have the important function of
    inspiring beyond what we can see in the real world! I have been chasing
    this goal for several decades now, so I'm in on the game.

    I also like Francois' analysis of the bird variety of snipe! I just had a
    different sort of image in mind!

    Mary Dee

    Mary Dee Harris, Ph.D.
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Humanist Discussion Group
    <w.mccarty@btinternet.com>) <willard@LISTS.VILLAGE.VIRGINIA.EDU>
    To: <humanist@Princeton.EDU>
    Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 2:14 AM

    > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 489.
    > Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
    > <http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/>
    > <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>
    > [1] From: Patrick Durusau <pdurusau@emory.edu> (140)
    > Subject: Re: 15.485 tools
    > [2] From: "McCullers, Jeff" <JeffM@lee.k12.fl.us> (29)
    > Subject: RE: 15.485 tools (Just For Fun)
    > [3] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (45)
    > Subject: mascots
    > --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------
    > Date: Tue, 05 Feb 2002 08:11:28 +0000
    > From: Patrick Durusau <pdurusau@emory.edu>
    > Subject: Re: 15.485 tools
    > Willard,
    > Let me see if I can illustrate the "ad hominem" nature of your prior post
    > and offer what I think is an alternative.
    > >--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > Date: Fri, 01 Feb 2002 09:54:21 +0000
    > > From: Willard McCarty <w.mccarty@btinternet.com>
    > > >
    > >How my remarks in Humanist 15.477 about the 'quaint sounding sneer, that
    > >the computer was "just a tool"' could have been interpreted as ad
    > >escapes me. As I understand the rhetorical term, an "ad hominem" remark
    > >argument is directed, as a literal translation would suggest, at an
    > >individual. (Like a spear thrown, it may not reach him or her, but the
    > >intention is definitely to injure the person.) In other words, the
    > >is personal. We all agree, I hope, always to go after the sins we
    > >rather than the sinners. But I would think that an important part of
    > >getting the development of our field right is to argue over particular
    > >ideas as they arise, change and resurface -- which will sometimes mean
    > >attacking ones we think are dead wrong.
    > In the post that prompted my response you said:
    > >My years spent as a teacher of calligraphy and occasionally
    > >paid lettering artist had prepared me well to spot this sneer for the
    > >of ignorance that it is.
    > Forgive me if I think people are overly sensitive but I would interpret
    > that remark as a comment on the knowledge (or lack thereof) of the person
    > making the remark challeged.
    > I don't disagree that such ideas should be challenged, but consider the
    > following imaginary exchange:
    > Humanist: "I don't see any value in either using or learning markup
    > languages. It does not have any application to biblical criticism."
    > C-Humanist: "Well, ignoring the past 20 years of development in markup
    > languages and software I can see how you would feel that way."
    > versus:
    > C-Humanist: "What sort of things do you do with texts in biblical
    > criticism? (Proceeds to demonstrate collation of manuscript witnesses,
    > making explicit implied ideas about text structure and flow of dialogue,
    > comparison of varying analysis of a text, etc.)
    > It seems to me that the latter reply, while not as emotionally satisfying
    > as the first, stands a better chance of making a convert or at least being
    > a principled reply to the voiced objection.
    > It may well be the case that I was the one being overly sensitive but I
    > have grown weary of the sound of heavy stones being rolled to the cries of
    > "Why do you compute?" and "Why do you not compute?" For my part I would
    > rather focus on what you characterize as "good scholarly results" and let
    > those results speak for our efforts.
    > There may well be deans, chairs and other in our various environments who
    > cling to opinions that have no relationship to the reality of modern
    > scholarship. But the dispelling of those opinions requires successes such
    > as J.J. O'Donnell's online Augustine course (I checked, that was in 1994!)
    > and similar efforts. We may never change some of those opinions and at
    > can hope to neutralize them with demonstrated successes in the missions of
    > our respective institutions.
    > >The conversation's the thing, isn't it? -- the moving, changing dialogue
    > >which we are always challenging what we think we know, asking how we
    > >it, even exaggerating something so that others are provoked to look at
    > >Indeed, this means knowingly taking the risk of being wrong so that the
    > >conversation may proceed. In a sense the main function of my editorial
    > >persona is to take such risks so that certain ideas and opinions may be
    > >tested, but this should not be especially notable in an intellectual
    > >environment where everyone understands that being right is not the
    > >rather getting it right. Which is and always will be sometime in the
    > >
    > >Patrick Durusau raises another important point by arguing that we'll be
    > >known by our ability to do good work -- by which I think he means get
    > >scholarly results -- despite our view of ourselves or others. One
    > >of Humanist is certainly to exchange news, information and techniques
    > >toward better results (which are never obtained on Humanist itself), but
    > >since the beginning another has been to reflect on the activity of
    > >humanities computing and what we think about it -- to make ourselves
    > >smarter about our professional/intellectual selves. With respect to
    > >second function, we're observers and commenters on what is said and done
    > >the application of computing to the humanities; we stand in relation to
    > >good (and bad) scholarly results obtained with the computer as the
    > >philosopher to the products of humankind as a whole. I'm not claiming we
    > >our job especially well -- too few of us are granted the time for such
    > >self-reflective thinking -- but over time, the necessary critical
    > >happens, in dribbs and drabbs, communally, in exchanges such as this
    > >All I'm saying here is, perhaps, that we should recognise what in fact
    > >taking place.
    > I do not mean to imply that such critical thinking should not occur, but
    > consider how many Humanist subscribers has offered courses like Augustine
    > since 1994. We would have more grist for the critical thinking mill if
    > there were more activities of that sort.
    > >I think the point to be made about tools is that they mediate the
    > >we make or have through them. I'd argue then that the terms "tool" and
    > >"medium" are two tightly interrelated if not inseparable aspects of what
    > >do when we're using computers in our work. (I recently came up with the
    > >formulation that the tool is an effecting medium, a medium is an
    > >tool.) As Wendell Piez suggested some days ago, when we internalise
    > >tool-use the mediation becomes very difficult to see, but we need to
    > >aware of it -- esp those of us whose professional lives are chiefly in
    > >humanities computing. I suppose that, for example, if I search the web
    > >"amoxicillin AND food" because I need information my pharmicist did not
    > >think to supply, I am using my computer consciously only to answer an
    > >urgent question, utterly unconcerned or even aware of such mediation.
    > >it is another thing entirely to say that the machine thus instantiated
    > >having no effect on when and how I ask questions. We are students of
    > >mediation.
    > And knowledge without tools is unmediated? I think computers (and markup
    > languages in particular) help us explore the mediation (and assumptions)
    > already in place when we approach humanities topics. Mediation by the use
    > of computers is a worthy topic to explore but I am not sure it can be
    > pursued in the abstract. Perhaps so, or at least I am willing to listen to
    > examples of such explorations.
    > >There are, I suppose, two points about metaphors. One is that the
    > >of prosthesis, for example, is in the literature quite a popular way of
    > >talking about computers. This metaphor leads the mind in certain
    > >and brings with it a certain amount of intellectual baggage. Is it not
    > >important that we look at the metaphor for its adequacy, question
    > >these assumptions are ones we want to make? The second point is that
    > >metaphorical or more generally figurative language is language fully
    > >realised -- i.e. powerful, unavoidable, and yes, potentially misleading.
    > >the computer is worth our attention, then the struggle to develop
    > >imaginative language for it is imperative, I would think.
    > I acknowlege the power of metaphors but do not think that we can ever
    > consciously direct our language practices to a given end. We exist within
    > languages practices and cannot step outside them. At Willard's urging we
    > may become aware of the gaps, rough spots or places that don't seem to
    > just right, but even that is quite a feat.
    > Patrick
    > >Comments?
    > >
    > >Yours,
    > >WM
    > >
    > >PS We have in fact had a mascot since 1989. It may be discovered, and
    > >history of it subsequently unearthed, by starting at the Humanist
    > >Thoroughness and persistence are rewarded.
    > >WM
    > >
    > >
    > >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/,
    > >willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk, w.mccarty@btinternet.com
    > --
    > Patrick Durusau
    > Director of Research and Development
    > Society of Biblical Literature
    > pdurusau@emory.edu
    > --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------
    > Date: Tue, 05 Feb 2002 08:12:17 +0000
    > From: "McCullers, Jeff" <JeffM@lee.k12.fl.us>
    > Subject: RE: 15.485 tools (Just For Fun)
    > Dear Willard,
    > You noted that "we have in fact had a mascot since 1989. It may be
    > discovered, and the history of it subsequently unearthed, by starting at
    > the Humanist homepage. Thoroughness and persistence are rewarded."
    > Is this the sort of thing you and Rahtz had in mind or have I once again
    > gone too far? It turns out that Photoshop is also a fine tool.
    > <<humquack.gif>>
    > If I haven't been clear about it yet, I must tell you that Humanist is an
    > extraordinary accomplishment. I'm quite honored to have made your
    > So when does someone teach me the secret handshake?
    > Kind regards,
    > Jeff
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    > --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------
    > Date: Tue, 05 Feb 2002 08:12:37 +0000
    > From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
    > Subject: mascots
    > Mary Dee,
    > Your suggesting for the water-edge-spirit totem of snipe (I do believe
    > that snipes are shore birds) fits in nicely with Willard's allusion to
    > "quack.html". Willared writes in his post-scriptum:
    > > PS We have in fact had a mascot since 1989. It may be discovered, and
    > > history of it subsequently unearthed, by starting at the Humanist
    > > Thoroughness and persistence are rewarded.
    > > WM
    > The URL to the Humanist home page is
    > http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/
    > where one would find (using a text-only browser) the following bit of
    > of what appears to be non-conformant markup:
    > <center><a href="quack.html"><img src="humanist.gif"
    > alt="Humanist Discussion Group" border=off></center></a>
    > [Aside: interesting in that water birds, snipes or mallards are boundary
    > travellers that the markup here displaces the "center" tag off-center
    > after a declaration regarding the border attribute (just over interpreting
    > as usual)]
    > If one continues and retrieves a copy of the quack.html file ...
    > one finds a USEMAP with the following annotation:
    > Sebastian Rahtz (May 1987 -- 30 March 1989) fecit
    > with a link to a plea
    > http://lists.village.virginia.edu/lists_archive/Humanist/v02/0179.html
    > which suggests that in some universe of discourse "mallards" are connected
    > to "Martians" and the "Oxford Concordance Program"
    > and some suggestion as to all this connectedness is found in the
    > fourteenth item linked by way of the quack.html usemap: a bit of natural
    > history ripe for the drawing of moral tales worthy of a Pliny.
    > The the terminal date (30 March 1989) in the date range following the name
    > of the faber (Sebastian Rahtz) is marked up to serve as a link to
    > http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/lists_archive/Humanist/v02/0312.html
    > where our illustrous moderator describes Humanist as
    > "this arena of useful exchanges, vigorous discussion, and intellectual
    > combat cum lovemaking"
    > I guess that in love and war a little magic is a useful thing.
    > Mascot from the French "mascotte" from the Provencal "mascot" diminutive
    > of "masco" a sorcerer, literally, a mask
    > Now then the question: computer (person and tool) as mask? There is a
    > technical meaning of mask in computing. It is a term found in the
    > proximity of domains and proxies.
    > Here I retreat and entreat subscribers to while a pleasant moment away in
    > the contemplation of mallards and masks and long-legged snipes.
    > --
    > Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    > http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/ivt.htm
    > per Interactivity ad Virtuality via Textuality

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