18.741 dubious conferences and gloomy thoughts

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005 07:44:35 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 741.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005 07:40:19 +0100
         From: Vika Zafrin <amarena_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: 18.735 dubious conferences and gloomy thoughts

Alexandre Enkerli writes, on a slight tangent from his main point
about alternatives to Publish-or-Perish:

> Sophisticated use of language has an obvious effect on the perception of
> prestige. Those of us who spend most of their writing in a second language
> are judged first and foremost by our capacity to use that language long
> before our ideas are heard. This works across disciplines. A social
> scientist who doesn't prove her knowledge of the humanistic canon will
> probably be perceived as naive by humanists even if her ideas are sound and
> telling.

Is it safe to assume that many Humanist readers would like to live in
a utopian world of academic polymaths? This discussion has certainly
been hinting at that. If we do strive for such a world, consciously
or not, we'll go through a phase (or maybe arrive at a stable point)
where it will become acceptable, even expected, that a social
scientist will be encouraged to provide input on humanistic topics
while at the same time missing some part of the relevant canon. In
this case, the conversation might continue indefinitely, new
information being given to the social scientist (by humanists who can
express themselves flawlessly, of course), and the original thoughts
revised by both parties in collaboration. The difference between this
utopia and the present state of affairs is only the default attitude
towards someone from "outside" whose thoughts may well be worth

I'd like that. It might make progress, by which I mean the
advancement of new ideas along a specific axis, slower; but that will
be an illusion. In this imagined reality, the structure of the
knowledge network will move away from hierarchical and towards
rhizomatic, The major fields of knowledge will be more tightly
interwoven, better reflecting the world we live in.


Vika Zafrin
Director, Virtual Humanities Lab
Brown University Box 1942
Providence, RI 02912 USA
Received on Tue Apr 26 2005 - 03:00:09 EDT

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