18.334 recording angels

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2004 06:45:19 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 334.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: John Unsworth <unsworth_at_uiuc.edu> (7)
         Subject: Re: 18.332 recording angels

   [2] From: Pat Galloway <galloway_at_ischool.utexas.edu> (10)
         Subject: Re: 18.332 recording angels

   [3] From: Vika Zafrin <amarena_at_gmail.com> (37)
         Subject: Re: [humanist] 18.332 recording angels

         Date: Fri, 05 Nov 2004 06:31:23 +0000
         From: John Unsworth <unsworth_at_uiuc.edu>
         Subject: Re: 18.332 recording angels


In 2002, I oversaw the transfer of records covering the construction of the
Blake Archive to the Charles Babbage Institute, an archive at the
University of Minnesota that is focused on the history of information
technology. You can see the finding-aid record for the collection at:


--all printed on acid-free paper, in archive-quality boxes.

John Unsworth

         Date: Fri, 05 Nov 2004 06:31:54 +0000
         From: Pat Galloway <galloway_at_ischool.utexas.edu>
         Subject: Re: 18.332 recording angels

How about every project having its resident
ethnographer-historian-archivist? We are beginning to produce digital
archivists, most of whom come to us from a humanities background. Without
the preservation of the records produced as well as the actions performed,
the record (and the data, too) will be that much thinner. Science grants
are beginning to require budgeting for permanent retention of datasets
produced by the grant; we need the same focus for the humanities. Capturing
the records for preservation after the project is over is often too late.

Pat Galloway
School of Information
University of Texas-Austin

         Date: Fri, 05 Nov 2004 06:32:21 +0000
         From: Vika Zafrin <amarena_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: [humanist] 18.332 recording angels

Willard writes:

> systematically, we then find ourselves unable when asked to substantiate
> claims that minds are changed, eyes opened in the process of doing what we
> do. Is it not better to see where you are going, even if all you're really
> interested in is getting there?

It is! More than that: I am convinced that such ethnographic history
should be constructed out in the open. As frightening and unusual as
it is to put unpolished ideas out there, documenting ideas in public
(in weblogs, archived versions of project documentation going back to
the very beginning, etc.) needs to be done, I think. The excitement
that comes with the inevitable participation in such endeavors of
interested parties external to the project is well worth the risk of
sounding like a fool. The momentum created by such collaboration is
partly the reason for academic blogs' popularity...

...and partly, I'd say, the reason for the slow propagation of that
popularity. The survey of humanities scholars conducted recently by
Ray Siemens et al. (they presented their findings at ALLC/ACH 2004)
led them to conclude: "...they tend to work as solitary scholars,
rarely collaborating with their own graduate students and do not see
the need for collaborating with other scholars." Until this mindset
changes and humanists see real value in collaboration, documentation
won't happen either: why document your process if you have no
intention of showing the progression to others?

> I am beginning to think that every project or every centre that develops
> resources needs its resident ethnographer-historian.

Sounds excellent. Might the problem of finding resources for such
endeavor be solved by having ethnographic histories be written
collaboratively by direct participants of the project or centre in
question? Only if they were genuinely interested in doing so, of


Vika Zafrin
Director, Virtual Humanities Lab
Brown University Box 1942
Providence, RI 02912 USA
Received on Fri Nov 05 2004 - 01:57:04 EST

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