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Humanist Archives: July 25, 2019, 6:50 a.m. Humanist 33.151 - close and distant

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 151.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2019-07-24 13:23:09+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: close and distant

Those involved with 'distant reading' may take some interest in
anthropologist Marilyn Strathern's fractal reflections on change in
scale, from her Partial Connections (new edn, 2005), Altamira Press, 
pp. xv-xvi:

> Let us recast the problem that scale-change itself seems to create,
> in the switch of perspectives that in creating more also creates
> less. If, in fact, information is lost proportionate to the new scale
> of looking at things, and thus proportionate to new information
> gained, it is apparent that 'the amount' of information has remained
> the same... Or put it this way, similar intellectual operations have
> to be performed on the data whatever the scale - classification,
> composition, analysis, discrimination, and so forth. Regardless of
> the way a change of perspective reveals whole new worlds, the
> 'same' coordinates of intellectual activity are summoned.
> Magnitude provides a simple example. If one thing observed close to
> appears as perplexing as many things observed from afar, the
> perplexity itself remains. Each single element that appears to make
> up the plurality of elements seen from a distance on close
> inspection turns out to be composed of a similar plurality that
> demands as comprehensive a treatment.... But the interesting feature
> about switching scale is not that one can forever classify into
> greater or lesser groupings but that at every level complexity
> replicates itself in scale of detail. 'The same' order of information
> is repeated, eliciting equivalently complex conceptualization. While
> we might think that ideas and concepts grow from one another, each
> idea can also seem a complete universe with its own dimensions, as
> corrugated and involute as the last.



Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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