[Humanist] 24.81 an oddity or something more

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jun 3 06:49:53 CEST 2010


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 81.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
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        Date: Wed, 2 Jun 2010 15:20:41 -0400
        From: Alan Galey <galey.lists at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.77 an oddity or something more
        In-Reply-To: <20100602052424.E8AD85AB53 at woodward.joyent.us>


Dot, I agree entirely, and appreciate the optimistic examples you cite
(including your Hexateuch
 paper, which I quite enjoyed). Since I
first wrote the sentence Willard quotes, prospects have certainly
brightened for those interested in the materiality of texts. The
maturing of image-based computing and the increasing convergence of DH
and mainstream scholarship (esp. book history) have helped, but no
doubt there are other factors, too.

The general problem I'm highlighting in the piece Willard cites is the
huge gravity well created by a certain kind of formalism, in which
texts -- all texts -- are assumed to be reducible to buckets of words,
or tokens of types. That premise works well enough in some fields;
what I question to is the notion that one must embrace the idea to do
any DH research, or to use any digital tools. Others like Alan Liu and
David Golumbia have shown how this idea still pervades business
computing and its tools. Even in academic circles, one still
encounters the idea that form and content must be treated as separable
because (supposedly) that's simply how computers work. It's
encouraging to see recent projects that imagine computing working in
other ways, and exploring the nature of materiality rather than trying
to escape from it.

So, I wouldn't frame the problem as an absence of people working on
the materiality of texts. As you point out, there's lots of energy in
that topic right now -- and on the information studies side, too.
Rather, I'd say the question is how that interest is enabled or
constrained by the tools we use, build, and inherit), and how much
effort is still required to get free of formalism's gravity well.
Maybe less now than when I wrote that article? I'm cautiously
optimistic.

(Somewhere in an alternate universe, some formalist must be writing a
post about getting free of materialism's gravity well...)

Best,
Alan

On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 1:24 AM, Humanist Discussion Group
<willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 77.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (18)
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.74 an oddity or something more?
>
>  [2]   From:    Dot Porter <dot.porter at gmail.com>                         (98)
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.74 an oddity or something more?
>
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2010 06:51:45 -0400
>        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.74 an oddity or something more?
>        In-Reply-To: <20100601053351.548EE5C063 at woodward.joyent.us>
>
>
> I think Kenny overstated his case.
>
> James Rovira
> Assistant Professor of English
> Tiffin University
> Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
> http://www.continuumbooks.com
>>
>>
>> 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]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2010 10:49:37 -0400
>        From: Dot Porter <dot.porter at gmail.com>
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.74 an oddity or something more?
>        In-Reply-To: <20100601053351.548EE5C063 at woodward.joyent.us>
>
>
> Regarding Alan's comment re: the materiality of text:
>
> In my circle, at least, there is great concern with the materiality of text
> and what digital technology means for it. Concerns include both the
> philosophical (what does it mean for a editorial reading of a text when that
> reading is known solely through digital imaging? For example, readings from
> the Archimedes Palimpsest images, or those discovered through the virtual
> unrolling of damaged papyrus scrolls), as well as the practical (what is the
> best way to present the materiality of a text in a digital environment?). I
> presented a paper last year on this topic, it's available online for anyone
> interested: http://dho.ie/node/74; I have a few things in the pipeline as
> well. The "Digital Paleography and Codicology" series of books published by
> the Institute for Documentary and Scholarly Editing also includes several
> chapters along these lines, I believe
> (http://www.i-d-e.de/schriften-2/kodikologie-und-palaographie-im-digitalen-zeitalter/cfp-palaeography-en).
>
> Melissa Terras and Kathryn Piquette work in this area (two names off the top
> of my head, I know there are more). Generally, Alan may have a point, but
> there are certainly digital scholars interested in, thinking about, and
> talking about materiality of texts.
>
> Dot
>
> On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 1:33 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
> willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
>
>>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 74.
>>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>>
>>
>>
>>        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?
>>
>> Comments?
>>
>> Yours,
>> WM
>> --
>> Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
>> King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/ http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/%7Ewmccarty/
>> ;
>> Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
>> Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.
>
> --
> *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
> Dot Porter (MA, MSLS)
> Digital Medievalist, Digital Librarian
> Email: dot.porter at gmail.com
> *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



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