16.572 lone scholar vs the collaborative

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Mar 22 2003 - 03:43:11 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 572.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Sat, 22 Mar 2003 07:49:36 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: lone scholar vs the collaborative

    Thanks to Michael Sperberg-McQueen for pointing out the ambiguity of "lone"
    in my message quoting Einstein -- as well as for the connection to geek
    mythology. I thought that as we seem currently to be elevating
    collaborative work from the status of a good thing (which I for one
    certainly think it to be) to a superior thing, it might be salutory to
    reflect on patterns of work in the sciences, which many think to be a model
    for us.

    As a much younger fellow I worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, on
    "the Hill" in Berkeley, California, part of the time as a "scanner" for
    Louis Alvarez, part as programmer in the Chamberlin-Segre group -- in other
    words, at the heart of the industrialized, good-enough physics which Peter
    Galison describes in Image and Logic. Galison talks about the factory,
    mass-production model that Alvarez so successfully implemented in the
    search for elementary particles. It got the job done, but as I know from
    many conversations with graduate students, junior and senior physicists
    (esp Willy Chinowsky, a fine and melancholy man), many were quite unhappy
    for the loss of direct engagement with experiments, themselves "alone" in
    their own laboratories. Yes, they were romanticizing an older-style
    physics, but it is also true that they were not unlike factory workers
    doing what was theirs to do as it came off the production line. Chinowsky,
    for example, wanted to deal with some basic theoretical problems but didn't
    have time, or so he said.

    Again, it's salutory to examine the models we're given. Perhaps we can do


    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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