[Humanist] 27.824 Busa and Cage

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Feb 26 07:06:41 CET 2014


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 824.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 13:35:56 +0100
        From: Domenico Fiormonte <domenico.fiormonte at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.818 Busa and Cage
        In-Reply-To: <20140223080943.470DD6125 at digitalhumanities.org>


Thanks to Desmond Schmidt for remembering those pioneering years of
humanities computing. Yes, the 1962 Almanacco was remarkable! Basically it
was one of the starting points of the reflection on "computational
philology" (let's call this way, although many would disagree).
I remember reading something also by J.J. McGann on Gianfranco Contini's
insights. The exciting story of the encounter between philology and
computing in Italy was told a number of times, but for those interested
there this seminal volume:
_La pratique des ordinateurs dans la critique des textes._ Actes du
colloque de Paris (29-31 mars 1978), publiés par Jean Irigoin et Gian Piero
Zarri. Éd. du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1979.

It would be interesting in the near future trying to build an interactive
geo-historical map of digital/computational philology showing the
polygenetic and transnational nature of this discipline (and in general of
DH).

Domenico

>
>         Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2014 19:54:50 +1000
>         From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
>         Subject: Re:  27.817 Busa and Cage: more work not less
>         In-Reply-To: <20140222084224.6F99462E9 at digitalhumanities.org>
>
>
> Dear Willard,
>
> This same point that Busa makes was posed as a question to a number of
> leading Italian academics already in 1962 in an article in Almanacco
> Letterario Bompiani, pp.143-144, 313-318. They were asked if the
> computer had changed the nature of their work "as some claim", or
> whether it merely made things easier. They all replied to the effect that
> nothing really had changed, except for Gianfranco Contini, who agreed,
> but added: "precisely because it will allow quantitative research that
> so far has been impossible, its heuristic significance will be
> revealing". My guess is that Marshall McLuhan is behind the change in
> attitude that Busa refers to, and is the chief of the "some who claim",
> since The Gutenberg Galaxy was published in that year.
>
> Desmond Schmidt
> Research Scientist
> Queensland University of Technology
>
> On Sat, Feb 22, 2014 at 6:42 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
> willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
>
> >                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 817.
> >             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
> >                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
> >                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> >
> >
> >
> >         Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2014 08:31:29 +0000
> >         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
> >         Subject: more work not less
> >
> > I would guess that most of us here are familiar with Fr Busa's repeated
> > insistence that computers should not be considered labour-saving
> > devices, e.g. in "Why can a computer do so little?", ALLC Bulletin 4
> > (1976): 3,
> >
> > > Let me point out one consequence arising from the above. A t the
> > > starting point of a new era there may be the temptation to ask the
> > > new techniques to do things in the same way as before. See, for
> > > example, some recent literature expressing critical remarks on
> > > computer use. My statement is confirmed that using the computer to
> > > prepare concordances, for example, with the same format and the same
> > > features as before is a poor use of a computer. I feel sympathetic to
> > > anyone in scholarly research who still thinks of using a computer
> > > just to do things easier and faster. The processing of my Index
> > > Thomisticus took one million man-hours for much less than five
> > > thousand machine hours. In language processing the use of computers
> > > is not aimed towards less human effort , or for doing things faster
> > > and with less labour, but for more human work, more mental effort; we
> > > must strive to know, more systematically, deeper, and better, what is
> > > in our mouth at every moment, the mysterious world of our words.
> >
> > I just stumbled across another such statement from a rather different
> > source. In their introduction to yet another invaluable edited
> > collection (take that, research excellence frameworkers!) Mainframe
> > Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital Arts
> > (2012), Hannah B Higgins and Douglas Kahn quote John Cage, "Diary:
> > Audience 1966", in A Year from Monday (1967), p. 50:
> >
> > > Are we an audience for computer art? The answer's not No; it's Yes.
> > > What we need is a computer that isn't labor-saving but which
> > > increases the work for us to do, that puns (this is [Marshall]
> > > McLuhan's idea) as well as Joyce revealing bridges (this is [Norman
> > > O.] Brown's idea) where we thought there weren't any, turns us (my
> > > idea) not "on" but into artists.
> >
> > There is so much to learn from those technologically inclined artists of
> > the 1950s-1970s, so much ammunition against the army of dull plodders.
> >
> > Yours,
> > WM
> >
> > --
> > 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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