19.240 many taxonomies vs the massively encoded

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 1 Sep 2005 06:41:57 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 240.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2005 18:04:38 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: many taxonomies vs the massively encoded

Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth S Vrba, in "Exaptation -- A Missing
Term in the Science of Form", Philosophy of Biology, ed. Hull and
Ruse, p. 52, write that,

>Taxonomies are not neutral or arbitrary hat-racks for a set of
>unvarying concepts; they reflect (or even create) different theories
>about the structure of the world.

Does it not then follow that we must beware of cementing particular
taxonomies of the world, or bits of it, into our computing systems?
Of course there are taxonomies so basic to how we think over a long
period of time that we cannot but structure our systems in accordance
with them if they are to be useful to us. But in the shorter term,
for those structures of which we are the conscious makers, it would
seem to me of highest priority that we devote our attention as
computing humanists to rendering our taxonomies as mutable as
possible. Markup, our flavour of the decade, seems to promote an
excessive tendency to cement in whatever we know how to describe.
We've got to move on. But how?



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Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
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Received on Thu Sep 01 2005 - 01:47:53 EDT

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