[Humanist] 25.916 real vs digital

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Apr 26 07:20:20 CEST 2012


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 916.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Stephen Woodruff <Stephen.Woodruff at glasgow.ac.uk>          (8)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?

  [2]   From:    "Mark LeBlanc" <mleblanc at wheatoncollege.edu>             (105)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?

  [3]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                       (7)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?

  [4]   From:    Enrica Salvatori <e.salvatori at mediev.unipi.it>            (96)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?

  [5]   From:    "Niels Ole Finnemann" <finnemann at imv.au.dk>               (58)
        Subject: SV: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?

  [6]   From:    Mark Wolff <wolffm0 at hartwick.edu>                         (71)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?

  [7]   From:    maurizio lana <maurizio.lana at gmail.com>                   (19)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 08:48:12 +0100
        From: Stephen Woodruff <Stephen.Woodruff at glasgow.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?
        In-Reply-To: <20120425065625.EB7F8277681 at woodward.joyent.us>


Pity humanist is text-based, Willard. I'd like to illustrate this note.
I remember from my school books that the first trains ran on wooden rails, that steel rails then flanged wheels were invented. And there was the horse, steam, internal combustion, electric motor progression, culminating in the UK in today's rubber bands and good luck propulsion system.
Yet what the users, as opposed to engineers, saw was the development of the railway carriage from an initial obvious horse-drawn carriage put on rails, to something that looked like three of those glued together, to my childhood trains in which every set of seats was sealed in its own compartment with its own doors, to the carriage with a corridor running its length, doors at each end, but to keep the customer comfortable carefully styled so it _looked_ as though it had doors along its length. It took decades to get to what we have today, even though it has no obvious (to me) engineering difficulties to make that style of carriage.

We must be careful what we give away. By all means change the carriage appearance so they use the trains, but don't mess with the engineering for these folks. They'll die out soon enough anyway.

SW.

On Wed, 25 Apr 2012 06:56:25 +0000 (GMT)
  Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 913.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 08:47:18 +0200
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: real vs digital
> 
> Recently I found myself in a hotel lift with a colleague who had 
> attended the same conference but with whom I had not previously spoken. 
> I asked him what he was working on, or interested in, or some such thing 
> as that. He said, "I'm an historian -- not a digital historian but a 
> *real* historian."
> 
> Too much can be made of such a remark, but it did characterise rather 
> succinctly an attitude I found here and there at the conference and have 
> encountered before. Contrariwise it can easily be turned aside, and so 
> too little made of it. But I'd rather ask in this time of transition, from the 
> status of unpersons (as those our kind once were frequently classed) 
> to the coolest of academics, how we negotiate changing identities. In my 
> conversation with this colleague in the time it took to descend from the 
> 6th to the ground floor I learned that he was at the conference because 
> he is in charge of a major digitization project. I conclude that it was 
> important to him in the moment of confrontation with one of the digirati 
> to establish a distance between oldfashioned, pre-digitally affected 
> history and all he associated with the digitization of historical 
> materials. A moment of fear?
> 
> In any case, how do we make it clear to our colleagues that the 
> situation is one of fluidity and hybridity, that taking positions and 
> establishing boundaries only impedes the discovery/invention of the 
> world coming into being? This is different from and more than the 
> question of how one explains oneself in the lift or taxi. I suppose it 
> is more like how one disperses the distorting fog that surrounds us.
> 
> Is this once again a manifestation of the effects of self-definition by 
> discipline?
> 
> Comments?
> 
> Yours,
> WM
> -- 
> Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
> College London; Professor (fractional), University of Western Sydney;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org); Editor,
> Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 04:24:04 -0400
        From: "Mark LeBlanc" <mleblanc at wheatoncollege.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?
        In-Reply-To: <20120425065625.EB7F8277681 at woodward.joyent.us>


in this regard, i have so welcomed the
advice of John Burrows when i visited
him in AU a few years back (and as he
has stated in his papers);

our text-mining experiments are "but a
middle game; there is much scholarship
that is needed before (digitization,
the computing) and the need for domain
expertise is so critical after";

i love this ... and i share it with each
and every group of students; it is a
humble statement, and yet a powerful truth;
the "middle game" is no less real ... it
is just (a new) part of the game that does
not diminish the existing/traditional/on-going
parts ... and is taking a rightful place
at the table

mark


------------------------------------------------------
Meneely Professor of Computer Science
Wheaton College
Norton, MA 02766 USA

http://cs.wheatoncollege.edu/mleblanc
508.286.3970


--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 08:18:47 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?
        In-Reply-To: <20120425065625.EB7F8277681 at woodward.joyent.us>


Is he thinking that he because he works primarily with physically archived
materials rather than digitally archived materials he's a "real" historian
rather than a "digital" one?  In that case, we would have to address the
difference, because there is one.  Otherwise, we might ask him to consider
the ways he is still dependent upon various technologies even as a "real"
historian, because he is.

Jim R



--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:02:42 +0200
        From: Enrica Salvatori <e.salvatori at mediev.unipi.it>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?
        In-Reply-To: <20120425065625.EB7F8277681 at woodward.joyent.us>


Dear Willard

it is not easy to reply to your questions. I am inclined to think these 
attitudes as last fires of a long lasting fear that only lately, not by 
conscious choice, but by social pressure,  changed its attitude.
For years I've been tagged in my department as a kind of "historian - 
electrician" (sometimes I am still called if a digital projector does 
not work well :-)), but recently I am increasingly asked to implement 
digital history projects where "real" historians do not know how to 
start and apologize for their ignorance.

I have low esteem of them anyway. If you want to be "real"  in a 
discipline, you have not close any door  and try to look beyond the 
walls of your  castle!

Yours
ES

Enrica Salvatori
Dipartimento di Storia
Via P. Paoli 15
Universit=E0 di Pisa
+39 050 2215464
+39 3402773638
http://www.historycast.org
Pagina personale: =
http://dotsosa.humnet.unipi.it/?author=3D57&page_id=3Dstoria



--[5]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:13:19 +0200
        From: "Niels Ole Finnemann" <finnemann at imv.au.dk>
        Subject: SV: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?
        In-Reply-To: <20120425065625.EB7F8277681 at woodward.joyent.us>

If I may reply to Willard McCarty reflections on the relation between digital humanities and old hat humanities, I think it is fair to say that Digital Humanities and before that Humanities Computing for many outsiders is far from being a fluid, open and hybrid culture, but on the contrary is often presenting itself as a very well established, self conscious and delimited culture - well to put it directly: rather self sufficient, exclusive and closed. While I have been studying digital media since the mid 1980-es (and had my first programming course in the mid 1960-es (fortran - now completely forgotten)) I have only followed the humanities computing (+ lit and ling.) at a distance, employing other perspectives in the study of digital media. I believe, however, that I have also experienced a barrier towards traditional humanities which is not that different from the one discussed by Maccarty. It is my impression that humanities classic is heavily imposed with an anti-machine bias, which to some extent can be traced back to philosophical  idealism and even to Plato's fear of the impact of writing on human memory and knowledge. "Material world is second order". To this comes however also in the humanities a post 68 flavour of Marxist philosophy of alienation directly related to industrial, mechanical devices. I have been in that tradition myself.

As a third theme to be addressed one might mention that a transition to using software for analytical purposes also involve some sort of de-qualification of former methodological skills.
To come back however to my initial remark. I also believe there is work to be done on the side of digital humanities. It seems to me that the there is a strong need to qualify the notion of "digital" and to move from a uniform concept of the computer to a concept of digital media reflecting the fact that the functional architecture of computers is variable and subject to ever ongoing developments in many directions.

If one would embrace all sorts of digital processes - not simply texts, images and sounds, but all sorts of hypertextual, interactive and multimodal usages as well as the implementation of digital circuits in our bodies, in traditional machines, in the cities and other surroundings and the development of the internet of things, there is a need for further reflections of the basic concept of digitization. My bid would be to say that digital processes have three basic features in common: both rules and data are processes as binary sequences (or at least parts of the rules and the data), that processing is controlled by means of algorithms (syntax), which again are completely controlled on the semantic level of the interface. In the end the two bits, which are themselves completely void of meaning, (very similar to letters, rather than numbers) are also the only invariants, while syntax and interface/semantics may be varied endlessly.

I don't claim this to be the final say, but I do claim that the Digital humanities community most often refers to notions of the computer as a much more restricted type of machine. Whether it is a concept  formed around the mainframe or a modernised idea of a toolbox (HCI) it seems to be IT centrist. This I believe is also a reason for many humanities scholars to be a bit sceptic whether focus on the machine will take focus from the research questions to be studied.

I don't tend to be polemic and I apologize if it is. As I have recently joined a Danish Digital Humanities research infrastructure project, (my focus is on methods for studying internet archives) I hope for fruitful exchanges as I believe there is a need for huge and strong bridges to be build.

Kind regards
Niels Ole Finnemann
Professor Dr., Phil.
Centre for Internet Studies
Aarhus University
Denmark



--[6]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 11:14:54 -0400
        From: Mark Wolff <wolffm0 at hartwick.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?
        In-Reply-To: <20120425065625.EB7F8277681 at woodward.joyent.us>

An interesting (and provocative!) take on all this is Ted Underwood's recent blog post:  http://tedunderwood.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/why-dh-has-no-future/ .  According to Underwood, DH will divide into at least three different subareas:  1) scholarly publication, 2) digital objects of study, and  3) digital means of analysis.  It looks like your "real" historian is getting in line with 1) and collaborating with specialists for 3).  So perhaps the "real" moniker does not reflect resistance to change but the recognition that the DH tsunami will subside (and leave at least some change in its wake).

mw


--
Mark B. Wolff
Associate Professor of French
Chair, Modern Languages
One Hartwick Drive
Hartwick College
Oneonta, NY  13820
(607) 431-4615

http://bumppo.hartwick.edu/~mark/



--[7]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 23:37:39 +0200
        From: maurizio lana <maurizio.lana at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?
        In-Reply-To: <20120425065625.EB7F8277681 at woodward.joyent.us>


these messages, and the exchange which follows, are the main value of 
humanist.
thanks willard!
maurizio

-------
il mio corso di informatica umanistica:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85JsyJw2zuw
-------
Maurizio Lana - ricercatore
Università del Piemonte Orientale, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
via Manzoni 8, 13100 Vercelli - tel. +39 347 7370925





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