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Humanist Archives: May 9, 2019, 6:10 a.m. Humanist 33.7 - reliability? authority?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 7.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2019-05-08 07:29:33+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: reliability? authority?

I've been asked to comment on two aspects of digital scholarship in the
humanities and interpretative social sciences: reliability and
authority. I'm inclined to answer as follows:

(1) Reliability

First, what do we want the machine reliably to do? I see a spectrum from
the close-to-absolute reliability of a machine instructed to do exactly
as told at the finest level of detail, to one given a set of initial
conditions and liberty within loose constraints to run with them (as in 
a simulation).

Second, how do we establish the reliability of results among skeptical
colleagues? Consider the results that are co-produced, negotiated in
Hutchins' sense: “the person-in-interaction-with-technology [that]
exhibits expertise” (1995: 155). This, I'd think, involves persuading
others as usual for any discipline plus getting them to take on board 
the perspective which the machine defines.

(2) Modes of authority

First, to whom or to what authority does the new discipline look for
help? In the human sciences there is no Nature, no supreme authority,
however elusive. Computer science, as a whole, has other concerns. Is
not the authority in this sense the loose assembly of elder disciplines?

Second, over what domain can digital inquiry claim to have authority?
I'd think the domain of all artefacts as data and all methods of inquiry
rendered into algorithmic form, focusing on (a) reasoning, sense-making
with these data and algorithms, and (b) study of the effects on
scholarly and social life.


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

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