[Humanist] 23.213 new journal: Informatica Umanistica

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Aug 3 10:17:12 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 213.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 03 Aug 2009 09:13:27 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: Informatica umanistica 1-2009

If one had to choose an historical place and time for the beginnings of 
humanities computing, it would be (and conventionally has been) Italy in 
the late 1940s, with the work of Fr Roberto Busa. The choice is an 
historiographical act, not an indisputable fact -- earlier work in 
machine translation, for example, demands attention, Edward Vanhoutte 
has pointed out. Indeed, as the scope of disciplines to be considered 
expands, choice is made more and more difficult, to the point that 
choosing becomes problematic. Nevertheless the Italian tradition in 
informatica umanistica remains, like Fr Busa himself, vital, vigorous, 
venerable and brilliant. For that reason alone the new Italian journal 
Informatica Umanistica, now in print and online at 
www.ledonline.it/informatica-umanistica/, is more than worth our 
attention. Its appearance is to be celebrated.

Fortunately for those many of us whose Italian is not up to the task, 
Massimo Parodi's editorial, "Cercare di capire / Trying to understand", 
has been translated into English (by Philip Grew). In it Parodi 
considers the commonplace impatience with any systematic effort to 
*understand* our practice philosophically. As Richard Hamming and others 
have remarked for computer science, one can sympathize with the desire 
to stop arguing and just get on with *doing* it. But when we consider 
what tends to happen when "just doing it" rules -- uncritical adoption 
of technologies and amnesia of the reasons for doing, i.e. narrow focus 
on means to the detriment of ends, and in academia a social demotion to 
the level of mere service -- the impatience becomes much harder to 
maintain. Achieving a balance between practicing and theorizing isn't a 
simple matter and excluding either ultimately crippling. But now, as 
things are, esp in a methodologically orientated field that builds 
things and is institutionally fragile where it exists at all, the danger 
is that we will be forced to ignore critical, long-term thinking in 
order to devote resources to short-term projects.

But since Parodi's editorial is online and provided bilingually, I'll 
let you spend your time reading his better argument.

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London: staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/

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