[Humanist] 27.124 computationalists and humanists

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jun 15 23:47:41 CEST 2013


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 124.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Bob Blair <bblair48 at yahoo.com>                            (86)
        Subject: Re:  27.116 computationalists and humanists

  [2]   From:    Marinella Testori <testorimarinella at gmail.com>            (39)
        Subject: Re:  27.121 computationalists and humanists

  [3]   From:    Arianna Ciula <ariannaciula at gmail.com>                    (44)
        Subject: Re:  27.121 computationalists and humanists

  [4]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (40)
        Subject: computationalists and humanists


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2013 23:38:53 -0700 (PDT)
        From: Bob Blair <bblair48 at yahoo.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.116 computationalists and humanists
        In-Reply-To: <20130612010009.CAC9C2DFB at digitalhumanities.org>


It seems clear to me that "humanities plus computing" is a subset of "problem space plus tools".  If you wish to use computational analysis to text, then you become adept at computation or you hire someone who is. Distinguishing 'hard' and 'soft' has little to do with it.

Bob Blair
--- On Tue, 6/11/13, Humanist Discussion Group  wrote:

>         Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2013 07:18:24 +1000
>         From: Willard McCarty 
>         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.
> 
> Comments?
> 
> Yours,
> WM


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2013 20:15:07 +0200
        From: Marinella Testori <testorimarinella at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.121 computationalists and humanists
        In-Reply-To: <20130614205158.233BF2CD1 at digitalhumanities.org>


It is a crucial perspective indeed, Mark!

In my personal work on historically-relevant sources, for many years I have
looked for effective methods (*methods* before than* tools*) which could
allow me to understand better the profound meaning of a text. Three years
ago, I found in computational linguistics and, particularly, in
*corpus* linguistics, a powerful joining link between traditional work on
sources from a philological point of view and informatic outlook. According
to me, this link is the language, which is the driving force of human
history as well as the basic code of informatic technologies.

Now I am a confirmed linguistic annotator without giving up my historical
attitude.

I am very interested in continuing to deepen this matter.

Thank you for your attention!

Marinella Testori

2013/6/14 Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>


>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 121.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>         Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2013 11:20:24 -0400
>         From: Mark Finlayson <markaf at MIT.EDU>
>         Subject: Re: Humanist Digest, Vol 57, Issue 11
>
>
> I suppose I was coming at the humanist/computationalist division merely
> as a practical matter: most of us were, at least originally, trained as
> one or the other.  And historically the difference has been pretty clear.
>
> We clearly have not yet reached the point where those who can operate
> effortlessly on either side are so common as to make the distinction
> meaningless.  But that is something to work toward, I think: a community
> of scholars who are truly children of both worlds.
>
> Mark



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2013 21:27:40 +0200
        From: Arianna Ciula <ariannaciula at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.121 computationalists and humanists
        In-Reply-To: <20130614205158.233BF2CD1 at digitalhumanities.org>


I wouldn't normally feel qualified to comment on this, but I attended
recently a workshop (http://dhdhi.hypotheses.org/1704) where at some point
somebody asked more or less this question: "when our Digital Humanities
students ask wether they will have to choose between being humanists and
being computationalists (I think she rather used the term 'technologists'),
what do we tell them? will they have to choose at some point?".

I didn't answer then, but her question made me think about my own
experience. Before 'discovering' that the name 'digital humanist' existed
(or rather was used by others), my identity of postgraduate student was a
bit fragmented - I lived a sort of parallel identity - the humanists would
define me as somebody that was doing some bizarre technical things and the
'real' computationalists would know me as a maverick humanist interested in
technical and formalised stuff. I obviously didn't fit in any of their
clubs, so finding a digital humanities community meant first of all to find
an academic - but also social and individual - identity.

All to say that names are important. Especially at some moments in time
(life) when one needs a label.

Arianna Ciula


--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2013 07:37:19 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: computationalists and humanists
        In-Reply-To: <20130614205158.233BF2CD1 at digitalhumanities.org>

It seems to me that the essential distinction is between perspectives or 
ways of thinking and acting. This distinction becomes problematic when 
it is taken to be exclusively social. Having people who concentrate in 
one or the other keeps both strong within themselves, but the greater 
benefit, I'd argue, is created by those who can do both. Usually when we 
say "I am of two minds about that" we take the person simply to be 
undecided. I wonder if we digital humanists might think of ourselves as 
being perpetually undecided?

This more generally is about becoming interdisciplinary. Stanley Fish 
argued (quite rightly, I think) that there is no neutral disciplinary 
standpoint. But what would one say historically speaking? Sociologist 
Steve Fuller argues for "deviant interdisciplinarity", i.e. which 
deviates from the social norm by rejecting the assumption that 
disciplines are natural kinds and then by striving to recover a lost 
unity of knowledge for which, as he says, the exfoliation of knowledge 
ruled by the great metaphor of the arbor scientiae is replaced by what 
Gillian Beer calls "open fields". This sounds at first like an Edenic 
myth, but I wonder.

Think now like a humanist, now like a computationalist. Both camps will 
keep you honest, one hopes. I have done this for years. I suspect that 
there are many among us digital humanists who do this all the time 
despite having our hearts in one camp or the other. Is this a 
developmental stage, or are we digital humanists permanently agnostic?

(Note, please, the name "digital humanities" grammatically subordinates 
the digital and so prejudices the answer. "Humanities computing" takes 
advantage of the ability in English to make a noun serve as an adjective 
while staying a noun, and it draws upon the participle/gerund ambiguity. 
But it seems I've lost this contest!)

 From a humanist's point of view perfect agnosticism will require of 
computing that it becomes *much* better than it is :-). What do the 
computationalists qua computationalists say about this?

Yours,
WM
-- 
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);
www.mccarty.org.uk/




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