18.355 writing things down (being one's own recording angel)

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 13 Nov 2004 08:14:08 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 355.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 13 Nov 2004 07:34:23 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: writing things down?

I have a question related to the theme of recording project work and the
like. It occurs to me that keeping a lab notebook while doing research with
a computer might be a good idea. One notices things, they vanish and then
are difficult or impossible to produce or find again. Successful strategies
of investigation slip by unrecorded. Has anyone tried to keep such a
notebook? Has anyone tried the idea out on students? Is there any evidence
that computer-using researchers in any discipline, including CS, do such

In the history of science, studies of lab notebooks have proven richly
rewarding, particularly when what a person says he or she has done turns
out not to be what the lab notebooks show. Clearly experimental scientists
themselves tend to think that keeping notes of what is happening is a good
idea. Indeed, equipment itself, high-level software especially, might be
said to play such a recording role. But as the mind and the stubborn
complexity of what we study always run ahead of whatever we have just
managed to build, there will always seem to be room on the desk (or the
desktop) for the notebook.



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Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
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Received on Sat Nov 13 2004 - 03:20:58 EST

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