[Humanist] 23.59 world-making and markup

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun May 31 08:49:46 CEST 2009

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 59.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 30 May 2009 19:04:36 -0400 (EDT)
        From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.53  world-making and markup
        In-Reply-To: <20090529084043.5DB5C917C at woodward.joyent.us> from "Humanist


Of a Friday, you invited us to consider mark-up as a kind of world making (or rather markup as world-making).
I am more tempted by an analogy of travel. Mark-up is way of traversing a world. I have in mind the now familiar adage that map is not territory. 

Of course, I am drawn to this via the distinction made in semantics between possible and actual worlds. And so I come back to the question you raise and mark it out for consideration:

How many of us keep our world-making in mind, I wonder? How many of us 
who mark-up texts as scholars, rather than as people who work for 
scholars, do not think on some level that we're identifying *the* 
structure of it, *the* essence of what it has to say? How slippery is 
the slope from the fashionably plural but reified "ontologies" to the 
singular name of the *study* of what is (NOT the list)?

Is this another way of asking the perhaps more technical question: can a given textual instance give rise to more than one possible world?

And how am I to markup the parenthetical "NOT the list"? Is it to be read in apposition to the reified "ontologies" i.e. as a phrase synonymous? In which case, is this (contrasting a "what is" with a set of "maybes") a bit like the game of asking how many children had Lady Macbeth?

<!-- comments -->
Reading the evidence of what is not there is being sensitive not to the unsaid but to the what is shown. For example, a form of mark-up links the emphasized _the_ (2x) in the paragraph cited above (localized to the one sentence) with the _study_ (to be found in the next sentence) and both exert a pressure on the seemingly unmarked *the* in the shout-like "NOT _the_ list" (our emphasis on the _the_). 

<!-- more comments -->
The slope may be slippery and its sliding may very well be in its designation as _the_ slope. 

<!-- To use mark-up is to perform a reading. To render marked-up text is to  initiate a re-reading -->

Trust a machine to read all the mark-up and you might miss what is not rendered in the enclosures. It is what is missed by machine translation (rendering) that makes rereading entertaining -- even of born-digital texts. To markup is an activity akin to re-reading and it produces mark-up that is the traces that bridge (hyphenate) spaces in a given world. Mark-up is inherently vectorial. To markup is to query magnitude and 
direction. The thing and the activity are potentially tied up in recursive loops. 

Which leads me to my question: are recursive structures necessary for world-making?

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large 

More information about the Humanist mailing list