[Humanist] 28.124 the price of manipulability

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Jun 15 22:13:56 CEST 2014


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 124.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>         (91)
        Subject: Re:  28.121 the price of manipulability

  [2]   From:    Øyvind_Eide <oyvind.eide at iln.uio.no>                     (17)
        Subject: Re:  28.121 the price of manipulability


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2014 08:14:21 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  28.121 the price of manipulability
        In-Reply-To: <20140614201545.68EF261F1 at digitalhumanities.org>


That's true what Joe says. For example, it is absolutely necessary to
examine fragmentary texts such as papyri and inscriptions in the
original to do any serious work. But in answer to Willard's call for a
better question I'm not sure that there always is a significant
tradeoff. To return to the Greek vase example, I never had any need to
look at a Greek vase so closely that I could see the grains of clay or
the brush-strokes of the potter. It sufficed just to see what scenes
were depicted on it. And I pose this as a question: isn't it really the
*quality* of the simulacrum, its faithfulness to the original that is
the issue? If we had really good pictures of papyri and not flat 2-D
ones, and different views in various kinds of light, that were
microscopically accurate, would we really need anything else? But when
digitising manuscripts using current technology there is so much more
that is lost, say, in a transcription, by the forced substitution of
pen-strokes for a selection of conventional symbols forced into perfect
horizontal lines, or by the translation of original features rammed into
angle-brackets, that leads one to think that there is always a tradeoff.
Is this perhaps an argument from the specific to the general?

On Sun, Jun 15, 2014 at 6:15 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 121.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>   [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>  (24)
>         Subject: digital vs real
>
>   [2]   From:    "Joe Raben" <joeraben1 at cox.ne>
>   (3)
>         Subject: Re:  28.118 the price of manipulability
>
>
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Sat, 14 Jun 2014 08:41:26 +1000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: digital vs real
>
>
> My apologies to Joris if I seemed to misconstrue his good argument for the
> simulacrum more useful than the simulated, as Desmond has pointed out. I
> take Ken's point, that virtual objects can have the properties he listed:
> "malleable, combinable and shareable to a much larger extent than physical
> objects", and Paul's, that augmentation, not replacement, is the way to
> design for the future. But my purpose was to get to two problems.
>
> The first one is that many of our colleagues and fellow citizens think in
> terms of replacement: the old and obsolete pushing out the new. That's
> wrong
> and counter-productive but easy to find in common discourse, esp the
> promotional kind. It's not hard to see the commercial motivation behind
> promotion of the new as replacement, a bit harder to see the emptiness of
> purpose and ignorance which is behind ease with which some reject their
> inheritance. (Don't know what we're for? Try this innovation, and this one,
> and this one....) But then there's my second problem: how we mortals
> augment
> in a finite amount of time and space -- the problem of what seems to me the
> inevitable tradeoff. I catch myself saying that there's *always* a
> tradeoff.
> Here I invite argument better, I hope, that what I can at present come up
> with.
>
> A better question?
>
> 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
>
>
>
>
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Sat, 14 Jun 2014 15:30:00 -0400
>         From: "Joe Raben" <joeraben1 at cox.ne>
>         Subject: Re:  28.118 the price of manipulability
>         In-Reply-To: <Dy6h1o00r44Ct0701y6i78>
>
>
> Everything said here is true, but I would add one comment. In my
> experience, there are some manuscripts that cannot be read without
> physically holding them. Some Shelley documents, for example, have passages
> where the ink ran dry and his pen simply scratched the surface. To decipher
> them, one had to hold them parallel to the light to cast a shadow in the
> slight groove. There is no way to do that with a digital image.




--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2014 08:51:49 +0200
        From: Øyvind_Eide <oyvind.eide at iln.uio.no>
        Subject: Re:  28.121 the price of manipulability
        In-Reply-To: <20140614201545.68EF261F1 at digitalhumanities.org>
 

I think the interesting part is that even if this specific aspect of this specific manuscript could be made computer readable, for instance by clever 3D modelling playing with light sources, there will always be a potential for meaning generation with the manuscript which is not there in the digital version. The whole point of making a (set of) digital reproduction(s) is to remove some characteristics of the original, at least its uniqueness. As we can never know of beforehand which characteristics may help us in creating meaning, we cannot know when we remove something useful.

Øyvind Eide




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