[Humanist] 23.566 finding software, or perhaps not

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jan 14 07:12:56 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 566.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2010 22:34:48 +0000
        From: Richard Lewis <richardlewis at fastmail.co.uk>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.564 finding software
        In-Reply-To: <20100113061317.0563945889 at woodward.joyent.us>

At Wed, 13 Jan 2010 06:13:17 +0000 (GMT),
Geoffrey Rockwell wrote:
> 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:
> http://tada.mcmaster.ca/view/Main/TaAbout#Lists_of_Tools
> 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.
It may also be the case that people don't really want tools at
all. And that most tools that have been provided aren't up to the
job. (Of course, someone will find an exception to this sweeping
generalisation in a tool for their home discipline.)

But I'm increasingly of the opinion that end user application style
software is not really what scholars who are serious about exploring
the possibilities of using technology to enhance their research or
open new avenues of research require. Rather, I'm beginning to feel
that a good grounding in programming, a simple, expressive language,
and good provision of libraries for abstracting over data encodings
and difficult algorithms required in each discipline will be much more
conducive to interesting computational scholarship.

The things that make computational scholarship interesting can't, I
think, be packaged up in an end user application. Like scholarship
conducted in any paradigm, computational scholarship is interesting
and worthwhile when it's exploratory. But the restrictions of an end
user application seriously stiffle any possibility for exploration.
Richard Lewis
ISMS, Computing
Goldsmiths, University of London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7078 5134
Skype: richardjlewis
JID: ironchicken at jabber.earth.li
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