[Humanist] 26.619 new techniques of external remembering

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Dec 22 10:48:21 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 619.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2012 11:00:43 +0100
        From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>
        Subject: Re:  26.608 new techniques of external remembering?
        In-Reply-To: <20121220092715.9D0A43125 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Willard,

Indeed we are most of the times merely grappling with the digital metaphor
of the process of externalizing memory and its results. Although I like the
digital counterparts of books and the like, at least for me it is
disappointing to conclude that we mostly do not reach beyond some sometimes
impressively sophisticated skeuomorphisms. Especially as they –I think–
tend to eclipse a far harder but potentially far more rewarding challenge:
to externalize not what was externalized already, but to externalize the
processes of interaction and synthesis. Capturing expression may give us
scale of memory, but capturing reasoning may yield scale of mind.

With a Christmas greeting for all
-- Joris

On Thursday, December 20, 2012, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 608.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                               www.dhhumanist.org/
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org<javascript:;>
>         Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 10:54:19 +0000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk<javascript:;>
> >
>         Subject: imagining new techniques of external remembering
> In his masterful book Marking the Mind: A History of Memory (Cambridge
> 2008), Karl Danziger describes the situation that first developed when
> literacy became commonplace and written notes and records began to
> proliferate. He argues that these notes and records were not first used
> to replace human memory but challenged it with a rapidly expanding
> volume of that which needed to be remembered in the mostly oral
> performances e.g. of courtroom proceedings. He continues:
> > People who found themselves in these new situations, and who were
> > faced by tricky demands on their memorial skills, had a use for a new
> > kind of technology. As the sheer volume of potentially relevant
> > written material increased, a massive problem developed: how to
> > summon up this material when it was needed? Nowadays we are
> > accustomed to using a multiplicity of highly sophisticated finding
> > aids, from catalogues and indexes to internet searches. In other
> > words, we make the content of external memory available and
> > accessible by exploiting the resources of external memory itself. But
> > in doing so we are benefiting from techniques of literary retrieval
> > that took many centuries to discover and develop. In classical
> > antiquity these techniques - which now seem so obvious - had not yet
> > been thought of at all or were still in their infancy. Finding ways
> > of turning external memory on itself turned out to be a painfully
> > slow and difficult process.  (p. 61)
> Danziger shows throughout with admirable subtlety how technologies and
> conceptions of memory, indeed what is meant by "memory", have
> interrelated and affected each other. He notes that early computing
> devices -- the isolated, room-filling machines that once were what
> "computer" referred to -- strongly imprinted by metaphor how
> psychologists and others concerned with memory think about what it is.
> All those techniques that we now have and use mostly thoughtlessly were
> developed in tandem with the slowly developed possibilities of the codex
> book. As we struggle to imagine and construct the what we call the
> "digital textual edition" as well as the digital memory archive, what
> are we doing that is not simply a digital rehash of our
> techno-conceptual inheritance?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
> the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
> London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
> University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
> (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

Drs. Joris J. van Zundert
*Researcher & Developer Digital and Computational Humanities
Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands
*Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

*Jack Sparrow: I thought you were supposed to keep to the code.
Mr. Gibbs: We figured they were more actual guidelines.

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