[Humanist] 23.159 dull and sharp

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jul 15 10:16:07 CEST 2009


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 159.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Claire Warwick <c.warwick at ucl.ac.uk>                      (21)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?

  [2]   From:    Hartmut Krech <kr538 at uni-bremen.de>                       (17)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?

  [3]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (20)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?

  [4]   From:    lachance at chass.utoronto.ca                                (27)
        Subject: In defense of dullness

  [5]   From:    "David L. Hoover" <david.hoover at nyu.edu>                  (19)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?

  [6]   From:    "Gerry Coulter" <gcoulter at ubishops.ca>                     (3)
        Subject: Conference Papers  why so dull?

  [7]   From:    Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>                (34)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 10:54:23 +0100
        From: Claire Warwick <c.warwick at ucl.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?
        In-Reply-To: <20090714092159.15C153272A at woodward.joyent.us>


I think we all know the problem. What Susan Hockey used to call 'Me and 
my database' papers, or what I recently heard called the 'I done good!' 
talk. I think it's partly because they are just an easy option. It's 
simpler to talk about what your digital application does than to think 
about how it makes a contribution to intellectual debates in the area.

However, speaking as the chair of this year's PC for DH 2009, I think 
it's a matter of making expectations clear. When we wrote the reviewer 
guidelines (which we encouraged all those submitting papers to read) we 
were careful to make it very clear that we expected analysis, reference 
to other literature, evaluation etc and not just a project report. As a 
result we received a large number of excellent submissions, and most of 
papers at DH were also of high quality in terms of their evaluative 
focus. For project reports we simply used the poster session. So I'd 
encourage anyone running any kind of DH conference or seminar politely 
to make their expectations clear. It seems to me that our community is 
perfectly capable of high level analytical thought, it just needs to be 
encouraged!

Claire

-- 
Claire Warwick MA, MPhil, PhD (Cantab)
Reader, UCL Department of Information Studies 



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 12:15:16 +0200
        From: Hartmut Krech <kr538 at uni-bremen.de>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?
        In-Reply-To: <20090714092159.15C153272A at woodward.joyent.us>


Impressive and deeply moving -- a scene from Jacob Bronowski's TV series 
"The Ascent of Man," filmed at Auschwitz a year before his death:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mIfatdNqBA&hl=de
It very certainly has relevance for computer science and practice.

Thank you.
Hartmut Krech
http://ww3.de/krech

         

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 08:44:16 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?
        In-Reply-To: <20090714092159.15C153272A at woodward.joyent.us>

I think this is a useful observation, but I don't think it's useful if
we make it a broad generality -- so that we think most people are not
interested in science because they've only been taught the findings
and not the methods.  Most people here in the US are required to take
science with lab in both high school and college.  We are taught the
methods and how to follow them.

Some people are more interested in people, some people are more
interested in things, some people are more interested in concepts.
Most people are most interested in people.  Just follow magazine
sales.  The concept people and the thing people tend to be minorities,
especially those who can follow their interests at any level of
sophistication.

Jim R

>> "They no longer follow how it was made": that clause reveals to us
>> how it happens that people who want to be interested in science find
>> it dull. They gape at the discovery from the outside, and they may
>> find it strange or marvelous, but their finding is passive; they do
>> not enter and follow and relive the steps by which the new idea was
>> created. But no creative work in art or in science, truly exists for
>> us unless we ourselves help to recreate it....



--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 09:32:04 -0400 (EDT)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: In defense of dullness
        In-Reply-To: <20090714092159.15C153272A at woodward.joyent.us>

Willard,

A constant offering of presentations in the genre of "people, their dogs
and their projects" may be less than entertaining. But isn't it part of
the cost of the privilege of being an academic? The wheat fields of the
plain may appear monotonous but from the correct perspective appear to
possess the sublimity of waves.

Sown a while ago was this remark:

<quote>
In _L'invention intellectuelle_ Judith Schlanger suggests that noise, the
sheer mass of popularisation which the French call "vulgarisation"
contributes to significant breakthroughs.  Each rearticulation of current
knowledge is a displacing repetition and affects however slightly the
paths open and opening to thinkers.
</quote>

And I offer another bit from a review of _Boredom: The Literary History of
a State of Mind_ by Patricia Meyer Spacks:

<quote>
Boredom raises a frightening spectre because "readers' capacity to declare
themselves uninvolved threatens the writer's project as it menaces their
own pleasure.
<cite>Criticism, Spring, 1997 by Karen A. Weisman </cite>
</quote>

Paying attention, even a distracted attention, to the tedious is an
important intellectual function full of its pleasure and danger. One
danger: missing the moment of novelty due to the slipping of attention.

Francois, Scholar-at-large
http://berneval.blogspot.com



--[5]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 09:57:51 -0400
        From: "David L. Hoover" <david.hoover at nyu.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?
        In-Reply-To: <20090714092159.15C153272A at woodward.joyent.us>

Or, Rather, Not so dull.

The DH2009 conference at the University of Maryland was anything but 
dull. I broke no teeth, but I do remember feeling, by 5:00 pm entirely 
spent from the high intellectual level of the presentations I attended. 
Though I can't speak for the conference as a whole, there was an 
extraordinary wealth of provocative and thought-provoking papers in the 
stylistics and authorship attribution thread of the conference.

So, perhaps you've been attending the wrong papers...

David Hoover

         

--[6]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 10:26:20 -0400
        From: "Gerry Coulter" <gcoulter at ubishops.ca>
        Subject: Conference Papers  why so dull?
        In-Reply-To: <20090714092159.15C153272A at woodward.joyent.us>

I feel sorry for the woman -- good thing for her well being she has also
not been reading this website the past 2 months

Dull is dull, scientists have no monopoly on it.



--[7]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 22:08:28 -0600
        From: Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.157 why so dull?
        In-Reply-To: <20090714092159.15C153272A at woodward.joyent.us>


I can't say I have ever seen someone break a tooth at a humanities
conference.  But it sure felt like a lot of humanists (myself included) cut
their teeth at THATCamp last month.  In fact, every tweet I saw coming out
of THATCamp indicated that the participants were genuinely excited and
engaged in the sessions.  But perhaps it unfair to compare an "unconference"
like THATCamp to the apparently dull conference you and your friend
attended. ;-)
On a more serious note, this and other recent posts have got me wondering
about the extent to which the digital humanities wants or needs a scientific
method and research method.  At what point, if ever, will we become
interested in carrying out experiments and publishing results that can be
reproduced?  Will our text mining ever lead us to test and compare
algorithms?  Will the peer review of code become a
widespread practice in the digital humanities?  Will we someday reach the
point where our code becomes worthy of publication?  Are digital humanists
doing enough to help others understand how our projects are made?  Is it
enough to write open-source code that allows people to peer under its hood
if traditional humanists still regard our digital tools as black boxes?  How
long will our digital tools and projects remain perceived as new discoveries
and cutting-edge research, assuming they are now, if other people never have
a hand in recreating them for themselves?

Sterling Fluharty
University of New Mexico



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