[Humanist] 22.639 looking back

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Mar 22 09:41:48 CET 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 639.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2009 06:19:46 -0500
        From: Martin Mueller <martin.mueller at mac.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist]  22.637 looking back

About James Rovira's

> Tag clouds
> perform the functions of catalogs and indexes, and all the differences
> you mention, really, are still just differences in speed of access.
> It's the difference between walking over to a shelf and thumbing
> through a book vs. clicking on a link and getting almost the right
> content some of the time -- and this difference is primarily time and
> availability of content.

Ranganathan's fourth law of library science usefully states "Save the  
time of the reader." When the time cost of an activity rises or falls  
by orders of magnitude, the calculus of the possible changes. You do  
things you previously couldn't do or you no longer do things you once  
did becase it is quite literally not 'worthwhile.' We are in the world  
of changes in degree turning into changes of kind.

The transformational changes brought about by digital technology are  
for the most part 'just' a matter of speeding up conceptually very  
simple operations, such as sorting lists, moving stuff from here to  
there, etc. Doug Engelbart's famous essay on Augmenting the Human  
Intellect is very clear on this. It's just a lot of little stuff, but  
it adds up.

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