Home About Subscribe Search Member Area

Humanist Discussion Group

< Back to Volume 33

Humanist Archives: April 17, 2020, 7:36 a.m. Humanist 33.775 - the game of adjectives

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 775.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2020-04-17 06:30:49+00:00
        From: C. M. Sperberg-McQueen 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.767: a game of adjectives

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.767: a game of adjectives
Date: Wed, 15 Apr 2020 11:43:42 -0600
From: C. M. Sperberg-McQueen 
To: Humanist , Willard McCarty

CC: C. M. Sperberg-McQueen 

> On 15,Apr2020, at 1:34 AM, Humanist  wrote:
>        Date: 2020-04-14 09:54:42+00:00
>        From: Willard McCarty 
>        Subject: a game of adjectives
> ...
> qualities that at least for me characterise digital computing. ...
>  Here it is so far:
> physical
> temporal
> finite
> discrete
> reductive
> fast
> interactive
> useful

An interesting list; it seems to me to say a lot about you.
I hope it's not too rude to observe that it seems to me to say a bit
less about digital humanities.  I don’t think it’s solely the
contrarian in me that wants to suggest virtual, atemporal, infinite,
continuous, anti-reductive, unhurried, and autotelic as alternatives,
or perhaps replacements.

I notice that I have left ‘interactive’ alone, because I am taking it
in a generic, not a computer-related sense.  In that generic sense,
all scholarship is going to be interactive.  If you meant it in the
user-interface sense, I’d have to add ‘batch-mode’ to my list.  (That
would be a slight exaggeration: it is close to true, but not really
quite true, that all of the software I use seriously and care most
about operates in batch mode, not interactively — at least, in the
sense that it can be and often is run from a shell script.  The main
exception I am conscious of is text editing.  I do use text editors,
so it is not the case that I would be almost as happy on MVS as I am
on macOS.  And I do occasionally work with language environments with
a read-evaluate-print loop; they cannot usefully be run from a shell
script.  But the closer something is to being something I take
seriously, the more work I will put in to making it something I can
run again without interactive input.)

If I can’t perform some task in batch mode, it quickly becomes tedious
to correct bad premises and re-run the task.  The result is that if I
can’t run a program in batch mode, results are all too likely to be
irreproducible.  An interactive-only digital humanities would run the
risk, or so it seems to me, of producing exclusively irreproducible
results.  Irreproducible results seem to me unavoidable and possibly
the only measure of success, when we are seeking enlightenment.  When
we are seeking knowledge, I think we need reproducible results and
reliable ways of transmitting them.  (We can seek both, though I have
the impression that some who achieve enlightenment lose interest in
the search for knowledge.  But my hunch is that it's not helpful to
lose track of the fact that enlightenment and knowledge are different

At least, so it seems to me.  But I believe some will disagree about
knowledge or about digital humanities or about both.


C. M. Sperberg-McQueen
Black Mesa Technologies LLC

Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted
List posts to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org
Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/
Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php

Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
Software designer: Malgosia Askanas (Mind-Crafts)

This site is maintained under a service level agreement by King's Digital Lab.