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Humanist Archives: May 7, 2020, 7:20 a.m. Humanist 34.2 - breaking down silos

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 2.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2020-05-06 16:42:47+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer 
        Subject: DH is about breaking down silos

In a social media discussion I had written,

"One of the problems we've been dealing with in science for decades is the
silo-ization of scientific disciplines. In genetics we haven't had that
luxury since genetics is inherently inter-disciplinary - it includes
biochemistry, math, stat, plant & animal breeding, anatomy, physiology, ...
but too often there were silos. We're seeing an increase in
inter-disciplinary research and progress. Very good, and here's an example,
but IMHO long overdue.

A different area has been the rise of the "digital humanities" ("DH") where
computer methodologies and traditional humanities areas (e.g. English and
History) have actually been working together. It's fascinating to me to see
this type of collaboration which did not exist (actaully was avoided) as
recently as 25 years ago - and which has had an upsurge only in the last
5-10 years."

A friend, Michael Wagner, who is also a computer geek, responded to this
with a story of his own experience,

"once - a long time ago in graduate school, in a shared database class, I
proposed putting all of the Inquisition records - the Inquisition was as
much a bureaucracy as any aspect the church, and kept pretty precise
records for each investigation.

Once, in a previous lifetime, I had wondered about then popular largely
feminist claims that witchcraft was prosecuted by the Church as a the
remnants of a pre-lerate atavistic religion. I had interest in the
development of the Western magical tradition between the end of the
Peripatetic age and Newton.

So I dug around a little bit and found a very small set of Inquisition
records of the persecution of witches - maybe 10 or 20 records - and one
bit of evidence in every case was the possession of one of the more or less
standard treatises on religion, e.g., Henry Cornelius Agrippa van
Nettesheim's "De Occulta Philopshia" or a derivative.

That was of interest, because it suggested that not only was the "remnant
of atavism" wrong, but also perhaps a more literacy than one would expect.

The inquisitors catalogued a lot of demographic information about the
people they investigated - I suspect that the demographic information would
be a treasure trove for historians trying to understand the social
structures of the various countries in the ages when the Inquisition was
active - particularly with regard to women, about there might not be much
other recorded data.

Getting all of that into a database where searches and statistics were easy
might easily revolutionize our understanding of that era."

--henry schaffer

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