[Humanist] 27.576 model, modelling, simulation
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Nov 30 09:47:02 CET 2013
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 576.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Sat, 30 Nov 2013 08:38:07 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: model, modelling, simulation
At the moment I cannot stop to assimilate the various papers on the
topic which I have run across, but I thought it might be useful to others
involved in this discussion-thread if I were to point to those that seem
to me most worthy of our attention. This pointing might also provoke
mention of others. So here goes.
(1) Galison, Peter. 1996. "Computer Simulations and the Trading Zone".
In The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power. Ed. Peter
Galison and David J. Stump. 118-157. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
An historical study of the common activity, centred on computing, of
what might seem at first a chaotic assemblage of disciplines and
activities: thermonuclear weapons, enhanced A-bombs, poison gas, weather
prediction, pion-nucleon interactions, number theory, probability
theory, industrial chemistry, and quantum mechanics. "More precisely,
nuclear-weapons theorists transformed the nascent "calculating machine,"
and in the process created alternative realities to which both theory
and experiment bore uneasy ties. Grounded in statistics, game theory,
sampling, and computer coding, these simulations constituted what I have
been calling a "trading zone," an arena in which radically different
activities could be locally, but not globally, coordinated."
(2) Ghamari-Tabrizi, Sharon. 2000. "Simulating the Unthinkable: Gaming
Future War in the 1950s and 1960s". Social Studies of Science 30.2: 163-223.
A socio-historical study that gives emphasis to the effect of planning
for thermonuclear war had on the development of simulation. "The Cold War
set for its strategic planners a problem that had never before
confronted the military. Nuclear war was a tabula rasa.... Given the
fact that nuclear wars could not be field-tested, war-planning
necessarily employed a variety of simulations." Hence, she argues, the
authority of experienced field officers was undermined and that of
civilian scientists greatly increased. Simulation is thus tied not only
to the unobservable and unpredictable but also the unthinkable and
undoable -- as well as to a profound social shift.
(3) Keller, Helen Fox. 2003. "Models, Simulations, and 'Computer
Experiments'". In The Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation. Ed.
Hans Radder. 198-215. Pittsburgh PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.
As with Galison, anything Keller writes is worth dropping whatever one
is doing to read, so it is difficult to narrow down to this, but it is
exactly on topic. Keller is also interested in sorting out a taxonomy
for simulation, but she ends with synthetic biology as a discipline of
engineering, thus: "Synthetic life forms that are real objects in the
sense that they are made from material components and assembled in real
space and time are clearly being built, and in ways that draw directly
from work on "lifelike" simulations in cyberspace..... Without doubt,
these entities are real. But another question immediately arises: are
they "alive"?" Then the punchline: "This is a question that worries many
philosophers, but, as I argue elsewhere (Keller 2002, chap. 9), it may
well be a question that belongs more properly in the realm of history
than in that of philosophy." In other words, what we call being alive,
she suggests, is historically contingent -- along with thinking,
reasoning, doing scholarship?
(4) Lenhard, Johannes. 2007. "Computer Simulation: The Cooperation
between Experimenting and Modelling". Philosophy of Science 74.2: 176-94.
As many have noticed, the introduction of Monte Carlo and other
statistical techniques into physics has resulted in a new branch of that
discipline: computational physics. There are, of course, philosophical
problems to be sorted, but for us this seems important because now we
are in the humanities doing something very much like experiment, so need
to understand how the idea of experiment is being affected.
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
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