[Humanist] 27.444 between STEM and the human sciences?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Oct 19 07:50:36 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 444.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 18 Oct 2013 21:59:43 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: STEM and the human sciences

A very thoughtful article on the relations between the human sciences 
(i.e. the humanities and interpretative social sciences) and the STEM 
disciplines (sciences, technology, engineering, medicine) has appeared 
in the Chronicle of Higher Education for 14 October: David A. Hollinger, 
"The Wedge Driving Academe's Two Families Apart", 

The question that arises for me from this article is all about what we 
in digital humanities can do to help both the other disciplines and 
ourselves. It seems obvious to me that with computing on the one side 
and the humanities on the other we're in a position to show what 
mediation can do. I don't mean get two enemies to agree, rather 
understand what it means to assimilate scientific practices -- Ian 
Hacking's styles of scientific reasoning -- within the humanities. I 
argue whenever I get the chance (such as Thurs night, in a lecture at 
King's) that digital humanities have brought experiment into the 
humanities, and that this urgently needs our attention. But if you check 
out the styles that Hacking has described, e.g. in "Style for Historians 
and Philosophers", Historical Ontology) I think you'll find that much of 
what we in fact do shows up under one of those styles. I've argued for a 
long time, waiting for a counter-argument, that digital humanities has 
implicitly created an as-if realm within the humanities by virtue of 
treating our objects as if they were merely data, allowing us then to 
treat these objects like any other data -- hence stylistically scientifically.

Can we not begin to address the problem Hollinger identifies by 
overcoming our own estrangement from the techno-scientific inheritance 
to which we owe so much, including the machine that is at the foundation 
of our discipline? Once that happens I think we can be quite creative in 
our mediating.


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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