[Humanist] 23.564 finding software

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jan 13 07:13:17 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 564.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 18:49:57 -0700
        From: Geoffrey Rockwell <geoffrey.rockwell at ualberta.ca>
        Subject: Finding Software

On the subject of lists of tools:

There are actually a number of places where you can discover tools.  
Others have sent links to some of the lists out there, mentioning for  
example DIRT. I have maintained a list of lists at:


What strikes me, however, is how often I hear people calling for a  
definitive list of tools despite the existence of well maintained  
finding aides like intute (http://www.intute.ac.uk/) that everyone  
should know about. I want to propose that the problem is not what we  
think it is - that the perfect list of tools will not solve the  
problem of discovery and that we will find there are always more lists  
cropping up.

Some possible reasons for saying this are:

- The people who want to find tools don't know what they are called  
and those who create them don't know what to call them. A  
"Collocation" tool might be useful, but would someone new to  
humanities computing know it was what they wanted? For that matter, it  
isn't even clear that the word tool is right.

- People always prefer to ask someone knowledgeable (or pose a  
question on HUMANIST) rather than find a resource and comb through it.  
Saves time and is more convivial.

- Those who create lists do so for a purpose and then stop maintaining  
them (with a few exceptions that will cease to be maintained if not  
funded.) Most lists are therefore more about what someone wanted to  
keep track of at a particular time.

- Those who create tools will contribute information to lists for a  
while and then get bored and stop maintaining the information. This is  
especially true when you have many lists you have to update every time  
your tool changes.

- Tools off a list are fairly useless without a lot of context.  
Finding one on a list and adapting it to your needs is rarely how  
researchers do things.

- What people want from a list is an absence. We want to show is that  
there isn't already the tool we imagined because that justifies the  
funding to build it. Too much information would spoil the fun.

- The creation of lists is itself an interesting act worthy of study.  
The list has its own rhetorical structure and can be a tool for  
defining who/what is in and what is out. There will always be another  
list as long as there are ambitions.


Geoffrey Rockwell

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