16.234 theory/practice -- & the meaning of "application"?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Tue Oct 01 2002 - 02:26:59 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 234.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> (51)
             Subject: Re: 16.231 why the #? theory vs practice

       [2] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (105)
             Subject: Re: 16.231 why the #? theory vs practice

       [3] From: John Zuern <zuern@hawaii.edu> (27)
             Subject: theory/practice

             Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 07:05:28 +0100
             From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
             Subject: Re: 16.231 why the #? theory vs practice

    At 01:32 AM 9/30/2002, Jennifer De Beer wrote:
    >Dear Willard & humanists,
    >On the theory and practice of encoding. In teaching a course on HTML I
    >stumbled across the following: Many reference sources on HTML will insist
    >that when encoding a/any color, the RGB color value should be preceded by
    >an hash e.g.
    >and yet, quite by accident (memory failure), I omitted the hash in numerous
    >examples. Even so, the colors were rendered, both in IE5.5 and NN4.7 on
    >Win2000. Reminded of the recent anniversary of the :-) I wondered about
    >the history of this hash. A cursory glance via Google on this matter
    >produced nothing substantive.

    A quick excavation at the w3.org web site, where many of the web
    specifications can be found, shows the six-digit hex codes showing up in
    the HTML 3.2 specification of January 14 1997
    (http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html32). It reads: "Colors are given in the sRGB
    color space as hexadecimal numbers (e.g. COLOR="#C0FFC0"), or as one of 16
    widely understood color names...."

    >Out of sheer curiosity I wondered whether
    >fellow Humanists had a clue or two as to why one uses the hash when it is
    >seemingly not required.

    So the question becomes "what do you mean by 'required'"? The besetting
    problem with HTML since its inception has been that "required" could mean
    either of two things. If we mean "required by the specification", then the
    questions come up of *which* specification, and how we detect and enforce
    conformance. This color business in particular is a good example, since
    SGML validation against an HTML DTD would not, in itself, enforce
    validation of the color syntax described above (much less the more complex
    color syntaxes allowed by later W3C specifications). Yet if we mean "who
    cares about some document on the Internet, what matters is what's required
    by the browser" then the question arises of which browser, which version,
    etc. etc.

    >PS: I'm not inclined to think that this is a browser compatibility matter.

    Netscape and IE for some years tracked each others' exception handling
    (viz.: error handling) to avoid being the browser that didn't work with one
    or another popular trick or workaround. They may still be doing it, though
    thankfully now the standards are much more robust and it actually makes
    sense to refer to the public specification as the authority on what is and
    is not "required".


    Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com
    Mulberry Technologies, Inc. http://www.mulberrytech.com
    17 West Jefferson Street Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
    Suite 207 Phone: 301/315-9631
    Rockville, MD 20850 Fax: 301/315-8285
        Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML

             Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 07:06:01 +0100
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Re: 16.231 why the #? theory vs practice

    From: Osher Doctorow osher@ix.netcom.com, Mon. Sept. 30, 2002 6:10AM

    Brian Whatcott's physics site seems interesting, but I think that the views
    of physicists on theory vs practice are quite complicated (as a mathematical
    physicist and mathematician and statistician myself), and similarly for the
    views of mathematicians and other scientists and philosophers. Roughly
    speaking, there tends to be in almost all of these fields or disciplines an
    imbalance between theory and practice, or more precisely the abstract and
    the concrete. The Creative Geniuses usually have the least imbalance
    (Leonardo Da Vinci, Pierre De Fermat, Kurt Godel, etc.). I suspect that
    this is true in humanities as well. The world or universe itself is, I
    suspect, a delicate balance between the two. This does not mean that the
    Golden Mean is usually a better strategy or goal than taking a position that
    is further away from the Mean, since Creative Geniuses usually are
    nonconformists, but they do retain (I think) more of a Golden Mean view in
    the abstract vs concrete case.

    Osher Doctorow Ph.D.
    One or More of California State Universities and Community Colleges

             Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 07:12:04 +0100
             From: John Zuern <zuern@hawaii.edu>
             Subject: theory/practice

    Willard and others interested in theory/practice questions might find
    Gadamer's work helpful, especially later essays in which he engages,
    in tentative ways, with cybernetics. I'm thinking of the material collected
    in Reason in the Age of Science (MIT P, 1981), especially "What is
    Practice?" and "Hermeneutics as a Theoretical and Practical Task" and the
    volume Praise of Theory (Yale UP, 1998). The section of Truth and Method
    on "Language as the Medium of Hermeneutic Experience" contains what for me
    is a very fine description of the dialectic of theory and practice in
    terms of ongoing concept-formation (Begriffsbildung).

    I'd like to add my own theory/practice query: can anyone direct me to work
    on the concept of "application" that moves between the term's use with
    reference to interpretation (the application of a theory or a rule to a
    particular phenomenon) and its use in computing (an application program)?
    In trying to think through hermeneutic problems that arise in critical
    studies of new media literature and art, I'm wondering if it might be
    useful to reflect on what we mean, exactly, by an "application" in both
    criticism and programming. Any references and/or thoughts on this will be


    John Zuern
    Associate Professor, Department of English
    Kuykendall Hall 402, 1733 Donaghho Road
    University of Hawai`i
    Honolulu, HI 96822
    zuern@hawaii.edu (808) 956-3019 fax: (808) 956-3083

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