[Humanist] 27.437 raising the level of computing literacy in digital humanities?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Oct 17 07:26:01 CEST 2013


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 437.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 21:32:52 -0500
        From: Paul Fishwick <metaphorz at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.432 disciplinary contradictions & radical demythologization
        In-Reply-To: <20131016053103.F2CD63C0F at digitalhumanities.org>


I'd like any references that you may have on DH's need to raise the level of
what we may call "computing literacy". I believe I have seen blog posts to this
effect, but if any of you have journal articles or books, I'd like to know of them.

The goal of "computing literacy" is one of my personal missions in bridging arts and humanities
with computing/engineering, and I see it as a worthy goal. I wonder if part of that goal
is the perceived need to treat the "tool" as subject matter for the humanist? I believe
that Willard may have opined previously on the desire to see "into the black box." 

There are two approaches I am using at UT Dallas:

(1) Relevance: teaching computing principles to artists, designers, and humanists is
achieved through cultural contexts. I have a project where students learn computing
and systems modeling by building several model-based interpretations of Al Jazari's
13th century castle clock (a water clock). Current models are centered in theory of
computing (automata) as well as systems (block model). However, there is an abstract
design interpretation, and if I had a history student in the class, there would be a
historical piece as a model. Students routinely raise questions answerable through
knowledge of history, computing, culture, and physics. 

(2) Representation: students are encouraged to creatively represent dynamic models--using
something other than flat diagrams with circles and arrows, however, keeping the underlying
metaphors alive. This is a another gateway to the humanities.

"Relevance" makes reference to traditional notations. "Representation" goes beyond community
norms for computing formalism, opening up the creative process so central to arts and
humanities. Some of this philosophy is found in aesthetic computing literature.

p

On Oct 16, 2013, at 12:31 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 432.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
>  [1]   From:    Rob Myers <rob at robmyers.org>                              (25)
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.430 disciplinary contradictions & radical
>                demythologization?
> 
>  [2]   From:    Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>    (122)
>        Subject: 27.430 disciplinary contradictions & radical
>                demythologization?
> 
> 
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2013 11:36:19 -0700
>        From: Rob Myers <rob at robmyers.org>
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.430 disciplinary contradictions & radical demythologization?
>        In-Reply-To: <20131015055515.0FF493B66 at digitalhumanities.org>
> 
> On 14/10/13 10:55 PM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>> 
>> there seems to be a deep contradiction
>> at the heart of their endeavors, insofar as often the only way these
>> projects can only be realised is by using a series of obscure computer
>> programs and/or programming languages that only they and their colleagues
>> understand. Do you see what I am getting at here? Those claims of radical
>> openness appear to be undermined by the very methods being used.
> 
> Most academia is similarly opaque to the uninitiated. I've just had to
> explain to a family member how to format up citations...
> 
> Increasing access to the canonical texts of (e.g.) Theory would not be a
> moral failure to do something else. Dumbing down the language used
> (rather than explaining it in effective terms) might increase the
> popularity of access but not the worth of it.
> 
> Accessibility of results and tools is sufficient to make them
> accessible. Having accessed them they are resources that require
> particular competences to exploit, like any other body of knowledge.
> 
> There are MOOCs, mailing lists, hacker spaces, Meetup groups, etc. by
> which people can access the social and educational resources required to
> do so. But these all have their own implications, as do
> bricks-and-mortar colleges.
> 
> So I don't think that there isn't a uniquely destructive contradiction
> at the heart of this. DH is novel enough that the contradictions of
> academia and open access in general are visible to people who do not see
> them in their own endeavors, but these are not specific to DH.
> 
> 
> 
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 00:02:40 +0200
>        From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>
>        Subject: 27.430 disciplinary contradictions & radical demythologization?
>        In-Reply-To: <20131015055515.0FF493B66 at digitalhumanities.org>
> 
> 
> Dear Victoria,
> 
> I do tend to think that two aims you are pointing to indeed are by and
> large shared goals of the DH community:
> 
> - Openess of scientific information and practice through open data and free
> software/open source software.
> - The ability to use these means by humanities researchers through raising
> awareness and computer literacy.
> 
> What struck me was your wording of "the only way these projects can be
> realised is by using a series of obscure computer programs and/or
> programming languages that only they and their colleagues understand."
> 
> To me it seems that saying that computer languages obscure the potential of
> the digital medium and of computation, is similar to saying that Dutch
> obscures your ability to communicate with the people of my country because
> your native tongue is English.
> 
> As far as I can tell nobody ever constructed a 'general purpose' computer
> language to be purposely obfuscating –with the noted exception of pranks
> resulting from computer language design exercises and experiments (cf. e.g.
> esolangs.org/wiki/Hello_world_program_in_esoteric_languages). That I am
> somewhat of a computer polyglot may stand as proof for this. Once you
> master one language in a computer language paradigm, the learning curve for
> others is very gentle. This is completely congruent to the effect that
> mastering Latin makes it easier to understand other languages in that
> family like Spanish and French: it is not too hard to master JavaScript
> next to Java, Python next to Ruby, etc.
> 
> There is no intrinsic aspect of on purpose excluding, hiding, fencing off,
> etc. in the technologies that we are using. Of course these technologies
> can and may be used by less philanthropic people to create obfuscating
> products, like any technology can be directed at wrongful purposes. In any
> case I would argue that like painting computer literacy comes in levels of
> skill. Anyone can paint a blot, it takes some practice and knowledge though
> to create more intricate works. You want a blog? Go to Google Blogspot, be
> done. Want a domain specific computer language to model narrative
> structures? Hm.. that will take some actual effort.
> 
> Now, whether we like it or not, increasingly the technologies you speak of
> are used to create the artifacts, processes, and interactions we as
> humanists study. Computers, computer languages, software applications
> written in those languages, and the Internet as a platform for all these
> things to be purposefully interacting—it is all part of our culture
> meanwhile. Like having to know French to be able to study in some depth the
> Literature in that language, do we not need to at least study, if not teach
> ourselves, the languages in use in this digital cultural world? Trying to
> understand some of these languages as an increasing part of what creates
> human expression and interaction, culture, ethics etc. seems to me almost
> an obligation to our profession.
> 
> Whether we offer enough possibilities for future humanists to get
> acquainted with these languages is in my view not so much dependent on a
> lack of motivation within the community to provide and be open about.
> Rather it depends on faculties and establishment to providing room and
> credits in the curricula to transfer the knowledge.
> 
> As for Morozov. I think he has a point. There was way too much naive Brave
> New World and Cockaigne hype around the Internet. And yes, I think we could
> use some more engagement with the ethical issues in our community too. But
> no, I do not have the impression that DH suffers from a deep contradiction
> in its practicing and preaching: we can not redesign the Internet and
> digital technology as a community, thus we need to thoroughly understand
> and engage deeply with the innards of these technologies to study there
> humanistic effects and potential.
> 
> Hope these thoughts may be of some use.
> 
> All the best
> --Joris
> 
> On Tuesday, October 15, 2013, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
> 
>>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 430.
>>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>        Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2013 10:18:15 +0200
>>        From: Victoria Scott <victoriahfscott at gmail.com>
>>        Subject: The disciplinary contradictions of DH and the radical
>> demythologization of computer programming
>> 
>> 
>> Hello,
>> 
>> I had a question about how digital humanists see the broad aims of their
>> ever-evolving discipline in relation to a point raised by Evgeny Morozov in
>> a recent article "Es ist lächerlich, das Internet erklären zu wollen!" (see
>> link below).
>> 
>> He identifies a self-proclaimed priest class that has formed to explain the
>> Internet to the lay people, and he thinks--if I understand correctly--that
>> it has to be challenged.
>> 
>> What I am wondering is how this insight relates to digital humanists, if at
>> all. Please correct me if I am wrong (I am very new here), but digital
>> humanists often defend the radical democratic potential or open access
>> nature of their projects...and yet, there seems to be a deep contradiction
>> at the heart of their endeavors, insofar as often the only way these
>> projects can only be realised is by using a series of obscure computer
>> programs and/or programming languages that only they and their colleagues
>> understand. Do you see what I am getting at here? Those claims of radical
>> openness appear to be undermined by the very methods being used. If it
>> isn't already the case (I think I mentioned I am *really* new here...),
>> wouldn't it be more effective for digital humanists be campaigning,
>> nationally and internationally, for the expansion of computer programming
>> classes at every level of education?...Not just in awesome summer schools
>> that a few of us happen to be lucky enough to attend? I guess what I am
>> calling for is a wholesale and comprehensive demythologization of computer
>> programming...or something.
>> 
>> I am probably just repeating things others have already written about. If
>> so, please accept my sincerest apologies and direct me to the key readings.
>> 
>> Thank you for your patience.
>> 
>> Forza!
>> Victoria H.F. Scott
>> 
>> *Evgeny Morozov* @*evgenymorozov* <https://twitter.com/evgenymorozov> 11
>> Oct <https://twitter.com/evgenymorozov/status/388964498075176961>
>> 
>> I talk about the emergence of preemptive governance in my FAZ interview (in
>> German) today http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuill
>> 
>> eton/evgeny-morozov-im-gespraech-es-ist-laecherlich-das-internet-erklaeren-zu-wollen-12614255.html
>>http://t.co/D0u84rDYLd
>> 
>> --
>> ***The Art History Guild <thearthistoryguild<https://sites.google.com/site/thearthistoryguild/>


Paul Fishwick, PhD
Chair, ACM SIGSIM
Distinguished Chair of Arts & Technology 
   and Professor of Computer Science
Director, Creative Automata Laboratory
The University of Texas at Dallas
Arts & Technology
800 West Campbell Road, AT10
Richardson, TX 75080-3021
Home: utdallas.edu/atec/fishwick
Blog: creative-automata.com





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