[Humanist] 24.489 on collaboration
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Nov 16 07:42:33 CET 2010
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 489.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010 06:37:52 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: on collaboration
By virtue of editing my journal, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, I
have received a copy of John N. Parker, Niki Vermeulen and Bart Penders,
eds., Collaboration in the New Life Sciences (Ashgate 2010). For our
purposes here I note in particular the concluding essay by Wesley Shrum,
"Collaborationism" (pp. 247-58). "Collaboration", he writes, "if we can
agree on nothing else, is a kind of cooperation or working together
towards some end.... Nearly always imbued with a positive connotation in
the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, it has momentarily
lost meaning as a descriptive term." He praises the contributions to the
volume because "they typically do *not* treat collaboration as a
'scientific good' but offer a healthy, analytical buffer to such
views.... The evaluative connotations are important to bear in mind,
since the labelling process is crucial and to call something
'collaborative' is typically to call it good." Hence, as he says, less
than half-jokingly he invokes the older sense of the word, "to return
collaboration to its World War II roots as a traitorous relationship
with an enemy". Bringing back that meaning helps him, and would help us,
to dispense with the lineaments of a transcendental virtue and so to
think critically about what is going on in the digital humanities.
Shrum distinguishes three reasons for collaboration: (1) the need for
resources, exemplified by most parts of physics; (2) as part of a
broader strategy for asserting the status of a discipline, by
associating with more established, higher-status fields; (3) the need
for information supplied by other fields, essentially because of the
complexity of the problems involved.
Does this taxonomy of collaboration suit us? What seems to be missing
here is (4) the need of a purely methodological discipline for problems
to which its methods can be applied. But, then, does the digital
humanities exist only in collaboration? Is it a condition sine qua non?
If it is, then how possibly can we be critical of it? Are we in the position
of those during WWII who had to collaborate in order to eat?
Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.
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