[Humanist] 25.429 ideas and things

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Oct 29 10:35:35 CEST 2011


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 429.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Geoffrey Rockwell <grockwel at ualberta.ca>                  (10)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.427 ideas and things?

  [2]   From:    Mícheál_Mac_an_Airchinnigh <mmacanai at cs.tcd.ie>         (11)
        Subject: ideas and things


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2011 16:50:46 +0900
        From: Geoffrey Rockwell <grockwel at ualberta.ca>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.427 ideas and things?
        In-Reply-To: <20111028071559.61FC81E7353 at woodward.joyent.us>

Dear Willard,

You ask about thing knowledge, something I think is important to the digital humanities as we try to sort out whether building things is scholarship. I am not sure that the truth can lie in the middle in this case because I think the truth has to lie in traditions of interpretation, which is what I take Baird to be saying. If you haven't been trained to "read" a demonstration device like an orrery then it is all Greek to you. Likewise, if you haven't been trained to read Heideggarian discourse "Being and Time" will seem like a black box. Before you can ask about the truth of either (the orrery's representation of the solar system, Heidegger's philosophy) you need to be trained in the tradition that can make sense of them. What would it mean for the truth to lie between such traditions? Do we really have to choose or can we be trained in many and express ourselves across them?

One thing I get from Heidegger's philosophy of technology is that we tend not to see the "ready-at-hand" which I take to include the interpretative technologies we use and the traditions of interpretation. These enable truth finding and discussing which makes them hard to see. For those of us trained in the humanities the truth bearing of discourse is so obvious we take it to be paradigmatic and any other form of bearing truth to be dependent on some humanist to explain it in writing. Baird (in writing) is obviously irritated with such logocentrism, which is why he sets out to correct the impression in his excellent book. Steve Ramsay and I in a chapter in a forthcoming book titled, "Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities" ask about the anxieties around thing theory. We aren't convinced the things we build need to be theories or need to meet in the middle.

I would argue then that in humanities computing we are experimenting with truth telling (and story telling) with a new form of things called digital media, web sites, serious games and so on. It may be to early to ask about truth as we develop a tradition of intervention and interpretation within which such things could be poked.

Best,

Geoffrey Rockwell

On 2011-10-28, at 4:15 PM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

> Can we agree that the truth (or best state) lies for the digital 
> humanities in the middle? Where are we at the moment? On which side is 
> our imbalance?



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2011 09:36:59 +0100
        From: Mícheál_Mac_an_Airchinnigh <mmacanai at cs.tcd.ie>
        Subject: ideas and things
        In-Reply-To: <20111028071559.61FC81E7353 at woodward.joyent.us>


2011-10-28

Hi Willard

"Can we agree that the truth (or best state) lies for the digital
humanities in the middle? Where are we at the moment? On which side is
our imbalance?"

I like the question:
My spontaneous reaction was:
"Leaning to the left with the Digital (somewhat like the Tower of Pisa),
whilst the Humanities stumble around it."

kind regards

Mícheál Mac an Airchinnigh





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