19.470 relational database and TEI

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 06:30:13 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 470.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (31)
         Subject: Scylla and Charybdis

   [2] From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert_at_gmail.com> (19)
         Subject: Re: 19.464 relational database and TEI

         Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2005 06:20:16 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: Scylla and Charybdis

A brief polemic, a pot-stirring.

It seems to me that the situation Orietta Da Rold has described is
not entirely dissimilar to the Homeric story of Scylla and Charybdis
-- the Scylla of database design vs the Charybdis of TEI -- or the
other way around, as you please. What I'd think the *researcher*
should be doing is getting as clear as possible the nature of the
tool that would best answer to the problem at hand -- in this case as
well as mine, it seems, a tool that does not yet exist. How else, I
wonder, can we progress -- i.e. imagine new tools we don't already
know how to build?

As long as the researcher's task is put for purposes of research in
terms of commitment to this or that existing technology, the story
goes not even as happily as Homer's. Of course in a grant-funded
project or other timetabled affair, choices must be made, things
actually done by date X, this or that achieved. Rules of the game,
the cost of having the grant etc. But (let me stubbornly emphasize
again) *in terms of research* the humanities computing problem here
would seem to be clarifying the emergent technology, not selecting an
emerged one. As long as we think of ourselves merely as "end-users"
or "end-appliers" of technologies invented elsewhere, we are no
better than adherents to particular trendy schools of literary
criticism, philosophy or whatever. We need to get out of the Shop of
Solutions, all pre-packaged and shrinkwrapped, so that we can begin
to imagine what no one yet knows.



Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | 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/

         Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2005 06:21:27 +0000
         From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: 19.464 relational database and TEI

Hi all,

Many thanks to Wendell for truly wise words. I fully agree. It's nice
having someone finding the middle ground in an knowledgeable debate.
As I'm not a native speaker of English I feel I have to stress that
there's no irony intended by using the word 'wise'.

Just one addition...
>Show me the computer language (maybe the
>natural language too) whose only instances are graceful, elegant and
>clean, and I'll show you a language that never got out of the lab.

I do have a proposition: Ruby. Nice and clean, completely OO, perfect
support libraries for Humanities purposes (e.g. regexp, xml parsing,
transparent high level database integration). With the advent of Ruby
on Rails (RoR), Ruby has been extended with a highly effective
framework for webdevelopment. Ruby and RoR are lean, mean, agile,
effective and efficient. Moreover, they're crawling out of the lab at
the speed I imagine labrats would. (Does that strike a vivid image in
English? :-)

Received on Fri Dec 02 2005 - 01:45:28 EST

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