[Humanist] 27.745 digital knowledge

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Jan 27 09:55:03 CET 2014


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 745.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Dr. Hartmut Krech" <kr538 at zfn.uni-bremen.de>             (19)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.739 digital knowledge

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (86)
        Subject: Re:  27.739 digital knowledge


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2014 12:17:35 +0100
        From: "Dr. Hartmut Krech" <kr538 at zfn.uni-bremen.de>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.739 digital knowledge
        In-Reply-To: <20140126085708.14DBD618E at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Professor Fishwick,

If discussed within Fichte's model as (perhaps) the starting 
point of all distinctions between knowledge, data, and 
information and therefore in contrast to (perhaps) 
Chevreuil's definition of the 'fact' ("le fait est une 
abstraction précise," 1856) as (perhaps) the starting point 
of our understanding of 'data', then all human knowledge 
will always be analog. The question arises, if and how in 
quantum computing we can speak of 'form' and therefore of 
'quantum knowledge'.

Best regards,
Hartmut
http://ww3.de/krech

Am 26.01.2014 09:57, schrieb Humanist Discussion Group:
>   There is nothing digital
> about this from the human's perspective -- the underlying computer architecture is
> digital by definition and design, but does that mean that if quantum computation
> appears on the scene as early as tomorrow, the field you have developed will become
> quantum humanities whose purpose is to investigate quantum knowledge?



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:40:47 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: Re:  27.739 digital knowledge

Very interesting. But first a quibble. Both "analogue" and "digital" are 
forms of representation. An analogue representation (as in analogue 
computing) is based on an analogy to something that happens elsewhere 
but cannot easily be manipulated. One of the early machines I caught 
sight of was an analogue machine set up to study the mammalian 
circulatory system. Harold Hazen's and Vannevar Bush's Differential 
Analyzer used mechanical moving parts to solve differential equations; 
the analogy involved was, I would guess, to steps taken in the 
mathematical process. Bush, I think, preferred analogue computing 
because one could see the mathematical process in the equipment, could 
in fact learn the calculus by studying the machine. (He writes 
somewhere, as I recall, of an assistant who learned his calculus exactly 
in this way.) To complicate matters, Turing's abstract machine was 
analogue in that it was based on an analogy to paper tape moving through 
a physical read/write device -- but of course digital in its operations. 
McCulloch's and Pitts model of the brain as a Turing Machine was also 
based on an analogy but proposed a digital operation for brain "circuits".

It would seem that "analogue" is rapidly taking on the meaning 
of "not digital". But isn't this rather unfortunate? The new meaning covers up 
some very interesting questions, opens up the whole question of analogical 
conceptualizing. Do we do anything else?

Paul's example of dragging and dropping in a GUI is indeed of an 
operation analogous to what humans physically do, and as he points out, 
it is invisibly translated into digital operations we cannot see. Based 
on that fact Brian Cantwell Smith has argued that the genius of the 
digital computer is that it renders digital representation irrelevant. 
Sometimes, yes, i.e. very sophisticated machinery allows us to ignore 
how what we observe is done but does not compel us to ignore it. Not paying 
attention to the yes/no choices being operationalized allows you to 
enjoy the music, work with the output etc, but paying attention to them 
opens up a powerful discipline, i.e. digital humanities.

If we had quantum computing then we would have a whole new set of 
problems and methods to work on. Our questions would grow radically. If 
digital computing faded from prominence, as analogue computing did, 
would there be no more "digital humanities"? Would the power of thinking 
in digital terms diminish or become irrelevant? Digital has the 
advantage of being elegantly simple yet powerful. Quantum computing is 
powerful in theory, but simple? What would remain, I suppose, is the 
intersection of a mathematical process or logic with the study of human 
cultural artefacts. When it comes, if it does, let's hope we're up to the 
challenge,

Perhaps "humanities computing" will turn out to be a better term after all 
because it is more inclusive, less specific to the conceptual basis of a 
particular form of symbol manipulation.

Comments?

Yours,
WM

On 26/01/2014 08:57, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 739.
>              Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                         www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                  Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>          Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2014 10:34:17 -0600
>          From: Paul Fishwick<metaphorz at gmail.com>
>          Subject: Re:  27.733 digital knowledge
>          In-Reply-To:<20140125091504.AEA1561BA at digitalhumanities.org>
>
>
>> From the standpoint of someone working in both analog and digital computing,
> IÂ’d like to suggest subsequent, and perhaps more intense, discussion on what is being
> proposed as “digital knowledge.” Despite the digital underpinnings of modern
> computer architectures, humans are primarily analog due to our physiology. An
> example can be seen in the desktop metaphor separating us from the computer
> operating system. In the illusion that we are “copying File X into Folder Y”, most of
> us have found that the apparently continuous dragging of icon representing X
> into an icon representing Y results in the copy operation. There is nothing digital
> about this from the human’s perspective — the underlying computer architecture is
> digital by definition and design, but does that mean that if quantum computation
> appears on the scene as early as tomorrow, the field you have developed will become
> quantum humanities whose purpose is to investigate quantum knowledge?
>
> 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

-- 
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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