21.348 what product?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 06:31:38 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 348.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 06:27:43 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: what product?

In "Psychological Models for Guidance", Harvard Educational Review 32
(1962), Gordon W Allport begins by saying,

>The lenses we wear are ground to the prescription of our textbooks
>and teachers. Even while we are undergraduates a certain image of
>the nature of man is fitted to our eyes. We grow accustomed to the
>image and when we become practitioners or teachers we may still take
>it for granted. But every so often comes a time for optical
>re-examination. Perhaps the image we have is still the best fit we
>can get; perhaps it is not. We can tell only by examining
>alternative lenses. (p. 372)

At the time the technology for correcting eyesight was rather
limited, so Allport can be excused for using a metaphor which makes
it seem as if a re-examination of our fundamental epistemic
assumptions is as simple as getting fitted for a new pair of glasses.
The grinding of lenses gives a hint of some difficulty, it is true,
but this happens well away from the person concerned. Now, of course,
we could speak of surgery to cut out the corneas of a person's eyes
and replace them with new, plastic ones. But until that becomes
commonplace, if it does, the metaphor has at least the advantage of
being frightening or at least off-putting. And that hints at how
difficult it is for people of the sort we deal with to readjust their
thinking to understand what we're hopping up and down about.

In a local discussions during the last couple of days, the question
of what we think students get from studying our subject was raised --
the hopping-up-and-down question in another form. One context was the
questioning of external examiners, who in this instance came from
various disciplines to consider our postgraduate students'
performance and our assessment of it. The difficulty for them (none
of whom was from the digital humanities) was in part understanding
what sort of expectations we could possibly have of the students. A
more serious because more immediate and prior questioning then took
place amongst us. Apart from teaching certain practical skills, with
what sort of cognitive equipment can we say we are equipping them?
Increasingly, at least in the UK, one not only has to state the
"learning outcomes", one has to have some way of demonstrating that
these are at least occasionally realised.

If one reflects on the fact that MA-level training takes place, in a
full-time programme, over a single year, what can one hope to
accomplish? Given no prior exposure to the digital humanities (often
the case for postgraduates), what would you suppose to be reasonable
educational goals?


Willard McCarty | Professor of Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/. Et sic in infinitum (Fludd 1617, p. 26).
Received on Thu Nov 15 2007 - 01:47:25 EST

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