[Humanist] 28.131 the price of manipulability

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jun 18 23:36:27 CEST 2014


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 131.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Norman Gray <norman at astro.gla.ac.uk>                     (112)
        Subject: More on manipulability

  [2]   From:    Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>         (88)
        Subject: Re:  28.129 the price of manipulability

  [3]   From:    maurizio lana <maurizio.lana at gmail.com>                   (32)
        Subject: Re:  28.129 the price of manipulability

  [4]   From:    Dino Buzzetti <dino.buzzetti at gmail.com>                   (30)
        Subject: Re:  28.129 the price of manipulability

  [5]   From:    Charles FAULHABER <cfaulhab at library.berkeley.edu>         (13)
        Subject: RE:  28.129 the price of manipulability

  [6]   From:    Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>    (161)
        Subject: 28.129 the price of manipulability


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2014 23:12:03 +0100
        From: Norman Gray <norman at astro.gla.ac.uk>
        Subject: More on manipulability


Greetings.

[Hmm: this ends up as a rather long reflection on the recent thread.
I'm also aware I'm falling behind on it! It also strays into some philosophical 
deep waters: I'm aware that there is lots more one could say about this, 
but all I'm aiming to do is expand on what I perceive to be the intuition 
which started this thread.]

I think there are at least three dimensions here, reasonably orthogonal,
which the word 'real *mumble*' doesn't really help us navigate.

1. richness: a film is visually 'richer' than a play, in the restricted
brute sense that there are more colours visible, or that the video file
of the film might compress less well than a digital record of the play.
Similarly, a live-action film might be 'richer' than an animation, and
World of Warcraft might be 'richer' than Minecraft, or a painted picture
'richer' than a reproduction of it (because of the physical texture
of the paint on canvas).  This isn't a very interesting dimension
-- the examples I've chosen illustrate that 'richer' in this sense
isn't much connected with 'better' -- but it's probably good to avoid
being distracted by this dimension.  Perhaps another term for this is
'representationally faithful', but I don't like that much more.

2. manipulability: a real-time simulation is interactive, whether
that's Minecraft, or World of Warcraft, or a PC flight simulator, or a
full-scale pilot training simulator with hydraulics, noise and vibration.
An interactive record of an artefact such as a precious book might be
manipulable, either by clicking on an on-screen button, or by pawing
the screen of a tablet.  A physical artefact may be manipulable --
a textile, a musical instrument, or a science-centre demo -- or not --
such as a rock.  I'm inclined to put haptics, as a simulation input/output
technique, into this dimension rather than the next.

3. tangibility (this is the wrong word; I'm trying not to say 'real',
but perhaps 'non-virtualness' comes closest): This is a dimension at one
extreme of which we find anything on a computer, haptics notwithstanding.
A vase, or a collection of computers in a display cabinet[1], is clearly
physically present even if we can't touch it.  A rock we can throw or
a microscope slide we can smell (ick) is tangible.

So where is 'real' in this, with or without the *mumble*?

That might be a distracting question, partly because 'real' seems to
sprawl across these dimensions, but also because it isn't even stably
at one end or other of them (a play on a bare stage might be a lot more
realistic than a Technicolor film).   Perhaps we should simply avoid
that word in this discussion.

So yes, Joris van Zundert describes how manipulable and 'real' is
Minecraft, and Ken Kahn talks of the strength of dynamic and interactive
virtual objects.  You only have to watch someone playing a simulation
computer game, or feel yourself almost fall out of your seat as you
lunge to _just_ get a falling Tetris block into its place, to know
how physically engaging a simulation can be.  Tetris isn't a 'rich'
environment, but that doesn't stop it being 'real' enough to make me
fall off my chair.

Desmond Schmidt and Paul Fishwick stress how much more useful a
simulacrum can be, than the underlying object.  More than this (and
partly contra Joe Raben's point about squinting at Shelly manuscripts),
in some circumstances it is _only_ the simulacrum that is useful, if
we are looking at, for example, a palimpsest in X-rays or ultraviolet,
or a radar map of an archaeological site.  A lot of science data is like
this: it is only through the multiple layers of mediating technology that
the object of study can be brought to our senses at all.  Melissa Terras
makes this point forcefully.  Again, it's not clear where the notion of
'real' takes us, here.

So if this isn't a question about 'real', what is it a question about?

Paul Fishwick stresses that "we are not playing a zero-sum game. New
technologies permit an augmentation, and not a replacement, of the
traditional."  Very much so: I think that Willard's point -- or at
least that aspect of his point that I was responding to -- is that
there is at least _some_ downside to leaving behind the non-virtual.
There is _something_ that we lose.  So that the question really is:
what is the nature of that loss?  What is it that the non-virtual has,
that the virtual hasn't?

Willard in [28.96]:

> The second remark causes me to wonder why we seem to have considerably 
> more trouble stirring up the curiosity of others by showing them what 
> can be done with computing. Does the problem lie with a deep difference 
> between natural and cultural artefacts? Why should an image in a 
> microscope, say, be more interesting than a KWIC concordance?

The image in the microscope, or the scratched Shelley MS, may be
less 'rich' than virtually enhanced alternatives, and it may be less
manipulable, but it is more tangible, and I'm convinced that matters.
This is a large part of the pedagogic reason why natural science
undergraduates do still do practical labs, it's why people still go to
museums and galleries, it's why the smell of a book matters in a way which
an author might resist communicating in a learned article, and it's one
of the channels through which we understand the world around us.  It's not
the only channel, but in many disciplines it's not a discardable channel.

Thus the image in the microscope, or the book rather than the concordance,
is more _interesting_ (Willard's question) because that's the thing
we're actually studying (presuming we don't have an instrinsic
fascination for concordances as such), and the tangibility creates
a direct link to it.  That's why (picking my own experience) most
scientists get a kick out of science museums, pushing small children
out of their way to the exhibits if necessary (and the museum in [1] is
_fantastic_, by the way).  There's another version of this observation
in <https://andyxl.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/bertie-and-the-aliens/>.

This isn't an answer to the question 'what is it that the non-virtual has?',
but that might be a clearer version of the question.

----

This discussion seems to have been obtruding itself into everything
around me in the last couple of days.  I came across a letter in the LRB
[2], about the value of representations; an entertaining article about
Minecraft [3] appeared in the paper yesterday; and just today I was
told a story about a friend of a friend who was reading a 'page-turner'
on a Kindle, and mid-way through was enjoying it so much she ordered
the physical book so she could enjoy the page-turning in fact.

These ideas overlap with, and may be inspired by, the ideas of my
colleague at Glasgow, Susan Stuart  http://enkinaesthesia.wordpress.com/ ,
who is concerned with the extent to which, and the means by which,
physical interaction with the world around us is intrinsic to our ability
to fully engage with it.

[1] http://www.deutsches-museum.de/en/exhibitions/communication/computers/
[2] Peter Cave, 'I see it!', at  http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n12/letters
[3] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/14/minecraft-computer-game-success

-- 
Norman Gray  :  http://nxg.me.uk
SUPA School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:17:16 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  28.129 the price of manipulability
        In-Reply-To: <20140617215714.4F2926126 at digitalhumanities.org>


Hi Melissa,

The RTI videos are indeed cool, but they are still just simulacra. RTI
is a process of amalgamating images of a text taken with visible (not
infrared) light from various angles, and the construction from them of a
3-D digital artefact. But I would be wary about assuming that any such
mathematically enhanced views are a true reproduction of the original.
Have you seen the picture of the "rectangular structure" on the far side
of the moon that turned out to an image-processing error? Some people
still believe there are aliens on the moon because they trusted in the
simulacrum, not the real thing.
e.g.
http://www.ufosightingsdaily.com/2012/08/huge-alien-structure-revealed-far-side.html

Desmond Schmidt
Queensland University of Technology

On Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 11:57 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 129.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>   [1]   From:    Melissa Terras <melissaterras at gmail.com> (153)
>         Subject: Re:  28.124 the price of manipulability
>
>   [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> (20)
>         Subject: partial and inexhaustible
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2014 21:35:45 +0100
>         From: Melissa Terras <melissaterras at gmail.com>
>         Subject: Re:  28.124 the price of manipulability
>         In-Reply-To: <20140615201356.40D8E6240 at digitalhumanities.org>
>
>
> So, you can't look at highlights and indentations in a manuscript image
> with a single shot low res jpeg, true. But there are technologies that have
> been around for over a decade that are readily available to capture
> material in this way, based on photogrammetry techniques, such as RTI.
>
> http://culturalheritageimaging.org/Technologies/RTI/index.html
>
> Oh look - papyrus which you can see imaged simply with RTI and change the
> shadows and highlights etc etc:
> http://vimeo.com/33245119
>
> Oh look, a 15th Century Illuminated Manuscript imaged simply with RTI so
> you can see the underlying shape of the manuscript:
> http://vimeo.com/30213656
>
> And I would warrant that those examples actually show more than the human
> eye could see in normal usage of the text.
>
> I can provide further examples of different technologies if you would
> like. Why, you could even take some low res jpegs with your phone, upload
> them to 123D Catch, and create a working model, of, say, sculptures! towns!
> people! in minutes! for free! http://www.123dapp.com/search/catch ….
>
> So let us not talk about the impossibilities of these technologies: the
> maths and models and processes and viewers and tools have been around for a
> decade. To say they don't exist ignores a huge movement in Heritage
> Science, which is gathering pace at the moment. And us Digital Humanists
> should really be talking to Heritage Scientists, shouldn't we? We have so
> much in common.
>
> Melissa
>
>
> -----------------
> Melissa M. Terras MA MSc DPhil CLTHE CITP FHEA
> Director, UCL Centre for Digital Humanities
> Professor of Digital Humanities
> Department of Information Studies
> Foster Court
> University College London
> Gower Street
> WC1E 6BT
>
> Tel: 020-7679-7206 (direct), 020-7679-7204 (dept), 020-7383-0557 (fax)
> Email: m.terras at ucl.ac.uk
> Web: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dis/people/melissaterras
> Blog: http://melissaterras.blogspot.com/
> Twitter: @melissaterras
>
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 07:48:51 +1000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: partial and inexhaustible
>         In-Reply-To: <20140615201356.40D8E6240 at digitalhumanities.org>
>
> Let me take a run at getting this matter of manipulability's price right
> in the simplest possible terms: that the model is not less than the
> modelled nor more but different, that what you get is always with
> respect to the question you're asking. Another way of putting it would
> be: not the inexhaustible artefact versus the limited model but both
> inexhaustible and always with respect to the question. Note what happens
> when the model itself -- and think of the simplest possible model --
> becomes historically interesting.
>
> One might say that each reasoning instrument shows a different view, but
> that suggests the out-there versus the in-here. I am suggesting, as
> Jerry McGann said about texts, that no object of study is
> self-identical, or as Peter Galison has said, that objectivity is
> romantic (http://archives.acls.org/op/op47-3.htm#galison).
>
> Comments?
>
> 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




--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 17:28:44 +0200
        From: maurizio lana <maurizio.lana at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  28.129 the price of manipulability
        In-Reply-To: <20140617215714.4F2926126 at digitalhumanities.org>

i like the examples melissa points to, and agree with her remarks about 
the heritage.

they rise 2 methodological questions:

1) digitizing is costly and we cannot foreseen periodical, incremental 
digitizing campaigns working on the same objects over the time: so every 
time we must try to reach /the highest possible technical and scientific 
level we can get/ from the digitization in terms of resolution, quality, 
formats, etc. of images (we digitize today and possibly will use the 
images 10, 15 years from now)

2) we don't know exactly now what we could ask an image for, in the next 
15 years; and the physical objects are the source of meaning we can 
convey in the digital images; so we must continue to take care of the 
'physical objects' /despite the cost/ of their curation, preservation, 
management etc.

maurizio

-- 
Maurizio Lana
Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università del Piemonte Orientale
piazza Roma 36 - 13100 Vercelli
tel. +39 347 7370925



--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 18:20:32 +0200
        From: Dino Buzzetti <dino.buzzetti at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  28.129 the price of manipulability
        In-Reply-To: <20140617215714.4F2926126 at digitalhumanities.org>


​Dear Willard,

You wrote​:

>         Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 07:48:51 +1000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: partial and inexhaustible
> [
> ​...​
> ]
> ​         the model is not less than the  ​​modelled nor more but differen​t  [...]
>

​I am afraid I cannot subscribe to this assumption. There is
a fallacy in the approach that the "model" is more, or is less,
than the "modelled".  Is what you see in a microscope—or
for that matter what you glean from a digital reproduction—
a "model" of what you *see* without?  Your ordinary perception
is as much a model as what you see through a technological
device.  Both are "models" of what is, in principle, unattainable
and seen only through different forms of observation.  And each
of them can only *see* an aspect or a part of it:

"reason, reflecting upon the sum of things, can, like the sun,
serve only to enlighten one half of the globe, leaving the other
half *by necessity* under the shade and darkness"
(Jonathan Swift, as quoted by F.R. Leavis, "The Irony of Swift",
in Scrutiny, in Scrutiny, vol. 2, no. 4, (1934), 364-378, p. 370).

"Models" are data and what is "modelled" is information.
And information always exceeds any data or ways of
representing it.

Yrs,                              -dino buzzetti



--[5]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2014 15:17:53 -0700
        From: Charles FAULHABER <cfaulhab at library.berkeley.edu>
        Subject: RE:  28.129 the price of manipulability
        In-Reply-To: <20140617215714.4F2926126 at digitalhumanities.org>


The technical possibilities are wonderful. How well do they scale?

Most libraries, even the national libraries, are very far from implementing
anything beyond the basic provision of color digital facsimiles. In many
cases they are digitizing microfilms.

If you want to look at watermarks in a manuscript or study its
collation--you still need to see it in situ. That's not perhaps the way it
should be or can be; but that's the way it is.

Charles Faulhaber


--[6]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 22:42:28 +0200
        From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>
        Subject: 28.129 the price of manipulability
        In-Reply-To: <20140617215714.4F2926126 at digitalhumanities.org>


Thanks to Melissa Terras for pointing out far more succinctly than I ever
could the augmenting capabilities that various types of scanning deliver to
us, saving me a message of paternalistic tone.

 Indeed, as Willard suggests: we live in a deeply hermeneutic universe.
When I was writing about factuality and simulacrum I most of all wanted to
point out that both are realities which we can adorn with meaning and
interpretation, and so all have their use. As for the superiority of the
one over the other: such can only be determined relatively to user, the
context of use, and the objective of use.

But allow me to add more confusion. I am not convinced yet that there is
not a trade off. There may be no limit to the ability of the human mind to
project reality. (I mean: there's really no life in the teddy bear, but to
the playing girl it is as real and complete a being as her daddy is–at
least for a while.) But is there no limit to the set of objects and
situations to which we are inclined to project these, for lack of a better
word, 'idiolectic realities'? This may actually not be a matter of choice.
We are capacity and activity limited neural networks trained over the
course of a lifespan to a propensity for addressing only certain types of
objects and situations as real—indeed "whatever that means". We all carry
different 'hermeneutic DNA' as it were, and therefore we all have different
limits to what we perceive as real? The mind as a window on the world can
shift more than expand?

As for the simulation, there's no doubt in my mind that we can create the
most perfect copy (given e.g.
http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/virtual-spiders-creep-and-crawl-their-way-toward-phobia,
just watch that video). Aside from time and money constraints, like Andrew
Taylor said technically we will be able to create an archive and use
virtual or 3D printed copies that would even satisfy Jerome McGann's plea
for attention to the materiality of the original. And apart from not being
the same atoms, they would asymptotically approach what Martin Mueller said
is theoretically possible as to retaining the original's information. Which
would be a good thing for it would allow us to finally return to the debate
on interpretative and transformative actions, rather than on
representational issues.

All kind regards,
Joris



-- 
Drs. Joris J. van Zundert

*Researcher & Developer Digital and Computational Humanities*
Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands

*Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences*
www.huygens.knaw.nl/en/vanzundert/

-------

*Jack Sparrow: I thought you were supposed to keep to the code. Mr. Gibbs:
We figured they were more actual guidelines.*

-- 
Drs. Joris J. van Zundert

*Researcher & Developer Digital and Computational Humanities*
Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands

*Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences*
www.huygens.knaw.nl/en/vanzundert/

-------

*Jack Sparrow: I thought you were supposed to keep to the code.Mr. Gibbs:
We figured they were more actual guidelines.*





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