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Humanist Archives: Dec. 22, 2019, 10:29 a.m. Humanist 33.517 - Solstice greetings 2019

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 517.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

    [1]    From: Maria Spanovangelis 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.515: Solstice greetings 2019 (126)

    [2]    From: Mary Dee Harris 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.515: Solstice greetings 2019 (19)

        Date: 2019-12-22 08:23:24+00:00
        From: Maria Spanovangelis 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.515: Solstice greetings 2019

Thank you a lot,

thank you for wishing best Wishes,

thank you for Ovid's quotation.

Jumping from ancient high cultural quotation to recent times and different
cultural background, I'd like sharing the Echo of Simon and Garfunkel's

Sound of Silence.

I'm rather sure they didn't know Ovid - maybe - and they didn't want to
imagine the future, however song's content can describe very well how today
people are affected by the Neon God (as they call an electronic tool) and
by the difficulties to listen, to speak ...

Best Winter Wishes

 Maria Spanovangelis

Il sab 21 dic 2019, 22:14 Humanist  ha scritto:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 515.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                    Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>         Date: 2019-12-21 20:54:45+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty 
>         Subject: Solstice greetings
> Dear colleagues,
> Humanist will as always at this time of year shut down for a few days
> over the Christmas holidays, this year perhaps for longer than in the
> last few years. The cause is a visiting parent for whom 'the computer'
> is a strange and formidable object made less ordinary than might be by
> all the apocalyptic clamour over artificial intelligence. Devotion to
> the machine, even with the best intentions, would require ingoring an
> important guest and so will not happen.
> AI is on my mind these days (as well as frequently in the news). I
> struggle to make from such well-informed discussion as I can find the
> kind of sense on which a scholarly discussion might be based. The
> task of filtering out the noise is rather more challenging than usual.
> I'm reminded of Ovid's description of the dwelling place of Rumour
> (Fama) in Book 12 of the Metamorphoses (39-63), from which I extract
> these few lines:
> ... veniunt, leve vulgus, euntque
> mixtaque cum veris passim commenta vagantur
> milia rumorum confusaque verba volutant ;
> e quibus hi vacuas inplent sermonibus aures,
> hi narrata ferunt alio, mensuraque ficti
> crescit, et auditis aliquid novus adicit auctor.
> illic Credulitas, illic temerarius Error
> vanaque Laetitia est consternatique Timores
> Seditioque recens dubioque auctore Susurri...
> everywhere wander thousands of rumours,
> falsehoods mingled with the truth, and confused reports
> flit about. Some of these fill their idle ears with talk,
> and others go and tell elsewhere what they have heard;
> while the story grows in size, and each new teller
> makes contribution to what he has heard. Here is
> Credulity, here is heedless Error, unfounded Joy and
> panic Fear; here sudden Sedition and unauthentic
> Whisperings...
> Pray that none of us turns out to be one of those 'new tellers'!
> But, on this winter solstice eve I turn away from the clamour to the
> othermindedness of the occasion, in this part of the world, in this
> particular household: to the habit I have formed of reflecting each year
> on something or other as reminder and celebration of Humanist's original
> communal thoughtful purpose. Yesterday one of us, Francois Lachance,
> offered a helping hand by sending me the result of his "mulling over
> what could be the differences between utility and instrumentality". He
> came up with the suggestion that "In the mode of utility an object
> carries a story; in the mode of instrumentality, objects are stripped
> of stories."
> Undoubtedly philosophers have worked on these differences extensively.
> I am embarrassed to say I cannot put my finger on any learned discussion
> at the moment. But Francois in his musing points to what could be the
> defining (or better, illumining) feature of a digital humanities worth
> celebrating: always tirelessly asking of each new bit of computational
> research or engineering 'what's the story?', in putting this or that
> gizmo to work, in devising it in the first place, in looking to the
> consequences of its use -- or, to borrow sociologist Erving Goffman's
> persistent question, "What is it that's going on here?" In the case of
> the digital machine, taking up this question requires not only all the
> disciplines of the human sciences to do justice to it but also the
> tricky matter of making a chorus out of that highly diverse mob (in the
> Australian Aboriginal sense, a loosely extended family or group, but
> with a tincture of the OED's first definition, "a disorderly or riotous
> crowd").
> You likely know Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox: An essay on
> Tolstoy's view of history (1963), in which he begins with a quotation
> from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: "The fox knows many things, but
> the hedgehog knows one big thing". I've come to the conclusion that the
> digital humanist needs to be both creatures simultaneously so as properly
> to take advantage of all that mob has to offer without blurring the
> crucial differences.
> As I write the sun has hours ago crept tentatively along the horizon to
> leave us here in the dark, the windows spattered with rain. Downunder
> "the heat of Christmas" (Kate Grenville) and raging fires are how it is.
> Wherever you are, and however inclined to celebrate whatever, allow me to
> wish you the best Solstice-tide ever!
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> 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)

        Date: 2019-12-21 21:32:11+00:00
        From: Mary Dee Harris 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.515: Solstice greetings 2019

Thank you, Willard, for your words of wisdom at this dark time of year.  Every
bit of enlightenment is valuable these days!

I was recently asked to give a talk to an AI consulting group here in Austin on
the history of Natural Language Processing. I accepted with amusement since it
will be essentially the story of my career from my dissertation data on punched
cards to my last job generating an encounter narrative in English for an
Electronic Medical Records application. The audience for my discussion will be
young folks trained in Machine Learning who will undoubtedly find much of what I
have to say, quaint, at best. And it will occur on my birthday so I will be
celebrating moving ever closer to the end of my life as these youngsters start
their careers.

Enjoy your parental visit! Be glad to share the time for a little while
longer. Have a wonderful holiday and a joyous New Year!

Mary Dee Harris
Austin, Texas US

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