[Humanist] 23.578 tools and lists

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jan 19 07:14:20 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 578.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (28)
        Subject: teaching beginners

  [2]   From:    Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>               (105)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.576 lists and curating?

        Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 10:04:29 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: teaching beginners

Like Susan Brown (in Humanist 23.574) I particularly favour very simple, 
off-the-shelf tools that give a beginner some insight into computing. 
For a number of years I have been teaching a course at MA-level called 
"Corpus-analysis of text". Almost all of the students I get are at or 
very close to beginner's level -- otherwise, as you'd expect, quite 
bright and sophisticated, but not adept with tools. The aim of this 
course is (borrowing a phrase from Ian Hacking) to "clear a space" for 
the literary computing by considering what nearby fields do with 
computers and text -- i.e. computer science (computational linguistics, 
natural language processing), lexicography and corpus linguistics -- 
then to ask what's not being done from a literary perspective that might 
be done. To get them started I have them use Michael Barlow's Monoconc, 
which any moderately intelligent person can learn in about 10 minutes.

There's another reason I stick to the simplest of tools. It's not just 
that these beginners would be stumped by Perl or Python, say, it's that 
their attention would be diverted from the intersection of the literary 
problem with computing to tool-making itself. For them I want the 
struggle to be focused on that intersection and with a specific literary 
problem. I want them to get very frustrated with what elegant Monoconc 
cannot do. I want them not to be seduced by the problem-solving 
paradigm, which does so much damage to our cause.

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

        Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 18:43:54 -0700
        From: Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.576 lists and curating?
        In-Reply-To: <20100117094433.8910531821 at woodward.joyent.us>


I think listmaking captures our fascination because bibliography has  
almost become a lost art among humanists and information  
professionals.  Perhaps we yearn with some nostalgia for the years  
before information overload when keeping tabs on citations within  
certain areas was much more manageable.  With the impending arrival of  
the semantic web, I hope we will seize the opportunity to develop  
tools that can at least partially automate the process of constructing  
and updating lists within specific domains.  And perhaps our  
professions will return once again to rewarding this valuable skill,  
albeit this time around it will be for scientific acumen as much as it  
is for artistic talent.

Best wishes,
Sterling Fluharty

Sent from my iPhone

On Jan 17, 2010, at 2:44 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk 
 > wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 576.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>        Date: Sat, 16 Jan 2010 17:09:31 -0500 (EST)
>        From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
>        Subject: Lists and curating
> Willard,
> Geoffrey Rockwell recently invited us to consider the activity of list
> making. The question arose in the context of lists of software and the
> thread, as it often does, went off into the direction of the  
> fabrication of
> tools. I would like to take up Geoffrey's invitation in the context  
> of list
> making per se and argue that the humble list should be an important  
> "genre"
> in the universe of scholarship.
> First allow me to begin via a tangent and to quote Aldous Huxley at  
> the
> beginning of <i>Heaven and Hell</i>. He argues for the work of  
> gathering which I take
> to be a species of list making (or vice versa).
> <quote>
> However lowly, the work of the collector must be done, before we can  
> proceed to the higher scientific tasks of classification, analysis,  
> experiment and theory making.
> </quote>
> I am reminded of the memes that circulate often among blogs, memes  
> that call
> for the generation of lists. In observing such list creation  
> behaviour one
> comes to understand a list as an itinerary. A list maker is in a  
> sense a map
> maker. Huxley's is a fitting beginning to an essay about the  
> transporting
> properties of art.
> As humble as it may be, list making is an exercise in judgement  
> (choices are
> to be made) and it is also an exercise in communicating results  
> (annotations
> aim to guide the reader of the list). Lists are not only generated  
> by human
> beings they are also beasts of the machines that mine the WWW.
> In a saturated world of creativity lists can be tedious. They can  
> also guide
> one to marvellous experiences. I leave you with one example (and in  
> so doing
> begin a list)
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAKAGMtZ6BM
> A mashup called "Meta presentation" posted to YouTube by someone  
> going under
> the handle zzthex. It's a mashup of lectures given at UC Berkeley  
> with as
> accompanying music Grace by Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma. I found it by
> searching for "Robin Blaser" who is a poet featured in the mashup.  
> Most
> importantly for the audience of Humanist is not that I wish to make  
> the case
> for data mining YouTube but that judicious use of metadata allows  
> neat stuff
> to be found. It's a lesson to impart with some exercises in list  
> making.
> Francois Lachance,
> Scholar-at-large
> http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance

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