18.381 the digital barbarians

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 2004 09:14:04 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 381.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 27 Nov 2004 08:58:25 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: doctrinal metadata, digital barbarians and just plain

Yesterday Pat Galloway refreshingly noted that, "Dewey's program... locked
down a western conceptual structure in such a way that people are now
threatened by an engine like Google that can conceivably be at least partly
agnostic as to conceptual structure". Should we not be a tad concerned that
so many are now rushing to re-lock down our conceptual structures by means
of canonical ontologies expressed in metadata? Is there reason to look
hopefully to the barbarian hordes of digital babble surging toward us over
yon digital hills?

Also yesterday I pruned a very large list of new books from a well-known
and (at least formerly) highly respected publisher so as to pass on to
Humanist only relevant items. But my principle of pruning quickly changed
to pragmatic weed-control. Were I an editor on whose desk proposals for
publishing those books had landed, I would have binned 3/4 of them as
immediately as I deleted notice of their publication, in full confidence
that were I also an expert in each field, the bin-toss would have been even
more vigorous. One author's strategy, for example, was to invent a new
entity called the "knowledge society", assume its reality without any
apparent support from social science research and then go on to write a
book extolling its qualities.

Alas, I find it difficult to be sanguine about the invading hordes.


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Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
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Received on Sat Nov 27 2004 - 04:22:03 EST

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