[Humanist] 27.546 simulation?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Nov 21 09:36:53 CET 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 546.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2013 06:58:52 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: simulation?

What is a (computational) simulation? How does simulation differ from 
modelling? What is the point of simulating? Where does one find 
simulations in digital humanities? What is their role in these disciplines?

So far my answers have been as follows:

(1) A simulation is a computational analogue of a real-world system 
based on knowledge of this system's components and how they interact.
(2) "Model" used loosely can denote a simulation, but where they differ 
a model is based on correspondence between its results and the object 
modelled; a simulation is based on correspondence between its processes 
and those of the simulated system.
(3) The point of a simulation is to study otherwise unknowable or 
unobservable behaviours of the real-world system.
(4) In digital humanities so far simulations are found in virtual-world 
constructs; some of these, such as Carolyn Lougee's "A World-Be 
Gentleman" (1983) have been around for a long time and do not 
necessarily involve visualisation. Prose- and poetry-writing software, 
tried out in the 1960s and later, simulated human authorship; these  
provoked some violent reactions, e.g. from F. R. Leavis.
(5) The roles of simulation in the humanities are in teaching (e.g. Lougee's 
program) and in speculative and counterfactual probing of the unknown.

Comments on any or all of these?

I have a small bibliography of writings on the subject, almost all from 
the physical sciences, and would greatly appreciate suggestions for 
further reading.


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

More information about the Humanist mailing list