[Humanist] 27.116 computationalists and humanists

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jun 12 03:00:09 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 116.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2013 07:18:24 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: computationalists and humanists

It's good to have Mark Finlayson's commentary on the topic of 
Computational Models of Narrative in Humanist 27.112. I have only one 
small bone to pick: his distinction between computationalists and 
humanists. I wonder on which side of that divide digital humanists 
are supposed to be?

As happens from time to time, last year I had the chance to have a 
number of very interesting discussions with a computer scientist (on the 
AI side of things), in which I attempted to demonstrate to him that us 
folks from digital humanities were not, as he kept saying, "soft". I 
wasn't trying to side with those who are "hard", which clearly he 
thought computer scientists were (not, by the way, physicist Richard 
Feynman's view of computer science at all), rather to do away with the 
old hard/soft sexist vocabulary of the now badly worn distinction 
between the sciences and the humanities. (To anyone with an eye for 
metaphor it's really difficult to believe that an academic in this 21st 
Century of ours would be talking of hard and soft except to his doctor :-), 
but I am here to tell you it happens!) But this is not to connect that 
vocabulary to Finlayson's note, not at all. My point is that again such 
a clear-cut division, however metaphorized, isn't helpful.

As Natalia Cecire has written, the central problematic in humanities 
plus computing is that plus. Take it away, by placing the two on either 
side of a great divide, and you've lost the point of it all.


Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, Research Group in Digital Humanities, University of
Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist (dhhumanist.org);

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