18.753 Zeitgeist metrics

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 07:16:08 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 753.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Patrick Durusau <patrick_at_durusau.net> (50)
         Subject: Re: 18.750 Zeitgeist metrics

   [2] From: Lynda Williams <lynda_at_okalrel.org> (76)
         Subject: Re: 18.744 Zeitgeist metrics

         Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 07:10:21 +0100
         From: Patrick Durusau <patrick_at_durusau.net>
         Subject: Re: 18.750 Zeitgeist metrics


Paul Oppenheimer writes:

>I am reminded of a fine novel about a young Spanish-speaking woman in the
>United States. (I apologize to the author of the novel: I remember
>neither the author's name nor the title of the novel.) The most memorable
>line in the novel for me was uttered in the character voice of a Native
>American (First Peoples) man, who said, "The white man's campfire is a TV
>set." There have been various cultures and subcultures (think for instance
>of those brought up from childhood on the Greek and Latin classics,
>translating English poetry into Greek poetry and vice versa), but, at least
>here in the USA, there seems to be no common cultural vocabulary. I don't
>know what to do about it. My instinct is to keep telling people about the
>dead white european males (dwems) who formed the common culture for the
>generations before my own. But I don't know whether I can get anyone to
>listen. If a student can read a paragraph part of which is "Some believe
>that p. But since p is preposterous, ..." and then summarize the views of
>the author of the paragraph as p, carefully cited with a footnote, is there
>any hope? Without any common language or points of reference, how is a
>common culture possible. I see the grand experiment of the usa
>disintegrating before my eyes. As late as 1968 or 1969, there were still
>common cultural elements inculcated through the public (American sense)
>school system. Now, there seems to be no cultural point of reference that
>one can count on being recognized. This is without even addressing the
>problem of mathematical and scientific illiteracy.

Is your concern over the lack of a common culture or the lack of the common
culture you would prefer?

If a majority of the population suffers from mathematical and scientific
illiteracy but is familiar with the TV shows Seinfeld and Friends, is your
complaint that you don't care for the common culture as it exists?

Do the writings of the framers of the US Constitution reflect a "common
culture" of the time or was the common culture mathematical and scientific
illiteracy and the equivalent of Seinfeld and Friends?

Could it be the notion of a "common culture" is a fiction that has arisen
from a largely silent historical record?

Does anyone seriously think the Hebrew Bible represents the uniform
religious practice of a culture, when it spends so much time condemning
departures from that practice? Why condemn transgressions if they are not
in fact occurring? How prevalent those transgressions were, the historical
record does not say. Could it be that those transgressions were the "common
culture" and the record that survives is a condemnation of that culture?

There may be a lack of a "common culture" but perhaps that has always been
the case.

Hope you are having a great day!


Patrick Durusau
Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!
         Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 07:10:42 +0100
         From: Lynda Williams <lynda_at_okalrel.org>
         Subject: Re: 18.744 Zeitgeist metrics
This message struck a chord with me. Everywhere I see people intimidated by
"success"  and confusing it with value and quality. It is more accurately
matched with popularity,  and while there are many excellent things that
are also popular .. there's also google's list of top searches.
My personal response is this. I am going to stop apologizing for not being
a best selling author or a world famous academic or rich or mind-stunningly
beautiful or whatever other silly expectation people instantly foist upon
any claim to any sort of achievement. And I am going to shameless promote
myself as better than many of best sellers, at last in the authorly field.
Because I have every right to disagree with the taste of the people whose
choices in culture are accurately reflected by what grocery stories put out
in their magazine racks at the checkout counter. And so do intelligent
readers everywhere.
That's my small act of rebellion. Share yours!
Lynda Williams, M.Sc. Computation, M.L.S. info sci
http://www.okalrel.org lynda@okalrel.org (fiction)
http://ctl.unbc.ca (University of Northern B.C.)
Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty
<willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) wrote:
 >               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 744.
 >       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
 >                   www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
 >                        www.princeton.edu/humanist/
 >                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
 >         Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2005 07:13:27 +0100
 >         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
 >         >
 >Some of you may know that Google gives us a week-by-week, month-by-month
 >and, since 2001, a year-by-year portrait of the wired Zeitgeist, at
 >http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html. I suppose nothing shown by the
 >face of this ghost, uttered by this oracle, measures our distance, or at
 >least mine, from the central concerns of our online world -- where it's
 >happening, man -- than the consistently high ranking of Britney Spears. I
 >take it (as a matter of something closer to pride than shame) that out of
 >the 10 top queries for the week ending 18 April,
 > >      1. boston marathon
 > >      2. amityville horror
 > >      3. britney spears
 > >      4. vida guerra
 > >      5. nelly
 > >      6. irs
 > >      7. lance armstrong
 > >      8. pontiac solstice
 > >      9. ufc
 > >     10. wholphin
 >I recognize only 3 without question, am in doubt about 2 and haven't a clue
 >as to the remainder.
 >So much for ignorance on our, or perhaps just my, side. How about ignorance
 >on the other? It is said that in England now a large percentage of the
 >young think that Churchill is a dog who sells insurance. (Only those who
 >live here will laugh knowingly; everyone else has to infer that there's
 >such a commercial, but will get the point.) It is said that in Ireland many
 >university students cannot say what event Easter celebrates. If (as I
 >believe) one cannot understand historical literature of the West, and
 >therefore its culture, without knowledge of the Bible, what sort of a
 >cultural fix are we really in? Is the truth in Raymond Williams' fine and
 >stirring phrase, "culture is ordinary", enough to see us through?
 >Now here is something to test our resolve to communicate with the world at
 >large! We must do it, but how? Or must we?
 >[NB: If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours please resend]
 >Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
 >Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7 Arundel Street | London
 >WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax: -2980 ||
 >willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Fri Apr 29 2005 - 02:37:34 EDT

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