18.540 material culture of humanities computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2005 10:07:28 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 540.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Matt Kirschenbaum <mkirschenbaum_at_gmail.com> (25)
         Subject: Re: 18.534 material culture of humanities computing?

   [2] From: "Rabkin, Eric" <esrabkin_at_umich.edu> (23)
         Subject: RE: 18.534 material culture of humanities computing?

   [3] From: Ryan Deschamps <Ryan.Deschamps_at_Dal.Ca> (30)
         Subject: Economics of Reviews

         Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2005 09:59:20 +0000
         From: Matt Kirschenbaum <mkirschenbaum_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: 18.534 material culture of humanities computing?

John U. will probably beat me to it, but the best example of "material
culture" in humanities computing that I know are the blake-proj
listserv archives, containing by now (I'm sure) well over 10,000
messages documenting the project's decisions and transactions, major
and minor. Fascinating reading.

Hard copy of these are on deposit for posterity at the Babbage
Institute (http://www.cbi.umn.edu/).

> Michael Mahoney has discussed the
> historiographic problem for computing and for technology.

What's the full reference for Mahoney? Willard, you should look into
the still very nascent literature on software studies. I've collected
some starting points here (on my blog ;-)



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         Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2005 10:00:11 +0000
         From: "Rabkin, Eric" <esrabkin_at_umich.edu>
         Subject: RE: 18.534 material culture of humanities computing?
Willard, it strikes me that if we lived in a calligraphic culture, the
partial detachment of means and ends would occur with writing letters
home as well.  Whenever the tool is subject to variation (either
development of the tool [Flash version X, harpsichord --> piano] or of
the skill in using the tool [writing in a second language] or in the
applications that the tool allows [b&w or color photography?]), the
practices that involve that tool potentially involve focus on the tool
rather than only on what the tool is doing.  The act of typing is more
or less transparent; the act of datamining isn't.  The question arises,
are there aspects of humanities computing (like datamining) that may
never achieve transparency and others (like relying on a readability
score) that may?  When should we strive to maintain some focus on the
tool and when should we not?  The answers are different for different
audiences: learners, users, tool-makers.
Or so it seems to me.
Best regards,
Eric S. Rabkin              734-764-2553 (Office)
Dept of English             734-764-6330 (Dept)
Univ of Michigan            734-763-3128 (Fax)
Ann Arbor MI 48109-1003     esrabkin_at_umich.edu
         Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2005 10:01:59 +0000
         From: Ryan Deschamps <Ryan.Deschamps_at_Dal.Ca>
         Subject: Economics of Reviews
Your discussion of material culture in computing science reminds me of a
thought I had when looking at a flash animation portal called newgrounds.
http://www.newgrounds.com -- (be warned, some [but not all] of the content is
notoriously uncensored and juvenile).
It seems to me that pseudo-economies of humanistic activity ("leisure,"
are occuring, and are certainly not being recorded as GDP.
Artists/Animators provide value to consumers by submitting their material
to the
portal and consumers, in turn, "pay" them with their scored reviews -- the more
satisfied they are, the better.   Higher scores motivate artists to supply more
animations to the portal, and higher quality animations compel consumers to
view more often and review higher.   The system administrator, in part, plays
the role of providing "public goods" such as webspace and bandwidth support.
So, perhaps the internet is now producing its own pseudo economies, and
with it,
its own set of "virtual" rewards and punishments, separate from the "real"
world.   In that sense, this could be a significant part of the "culture" that
develops in internet communities -- mutual dependence creates norms that
develop into culture.
Is there any body of academic information that approaches this problem?   It
seems to me that some sort of ethnography could be very helpful to uncover how
"utility" develops on the virtual end -- which, in turn, could serve as a
strong argument contravening or modifying utilitarianism for human welfare.
Just a thought (or collection of them).
Ryan. . .
Ryan Deschamps
MLIS/MPA Expected 2005
Received on Sat Jan 29 2005 - 05:16:07 EST

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