[Humanist] 24.74 an oddity or something more?
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jun 1 07:33:51 CEST 2010
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 74.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Mon, 31 May 2010 18:38:08 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: odd chiasmus
I am wondering whether anyone here knows of a study of or
commentary on a phenomenon of which I have 3 instances from the history
of computing: at the very moment when a development has come to
fruition those most closely concerned turn away. The instances are these:
1. Tools for word-study vs scholars' interests
In his British Library lecture, Anthony Kenny cites the classicist
Robert Connor's observation that "Computer technology became available
precisely at the wrong moment in the profession's development. The era
of traditional lexical and textual studies had largely passed..." when
the tools to pursue such studies better than ever before arrived on the
scene. Kenny suggests that scholars might have reacted adversely to
"quantification invading their own subject [offering] no escape from
those wretched numbers" (pp. 9-10). Hence their rejection.
2. Tools for construction vs constructivism in art
Richard Wright, in "From System to Software: Computer Programming and
the Death of Constructivist Art", in White Heat Cold Logic, asks about
the artistic movement known as Constructivism, why it "should have
declined precisely at the point at which the 'programmatic' seemed to
reach its fullest potential for expression: the programming of the
digital computer" (p. 120). He leaves the question open.
3. Disembodiment of information vs materiality of texts
Alan Galey, in "The Human Presence in Digital Artefacts", in Text and
Genre in Reconstruction (forthcoming from Open Book Publishers), argues
that "it should be disquieting to see a deepening separation of material
form from idealized content in our tools at the very moment when
literary critics have established the materiality of texts to be
indispensable to interpretation" (p. 94).
What might we say about these co-incidences? Is there some inclusive
principle at work here? Are there other examples in the history of the
digital humanities we might consider?
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.
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