[Humanist] 29.205 the end of digital humanities?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Aug 10 09:07:57 CEST 2015


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 205.
            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>         (64)
        Subject: Re:  29.203 the end of digital humanities?

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (48)
        Subject: the end


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 09:55:18 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.203 the end of digital humanities?
        In-Reply-To: <20150809101940.33CC068A5 at digitalhumanities.org>


Hi Paul,

I initially thought that making a comparison between astronomy and the
humanities is simply invalid. There are aspects of humanities research that
have nothing whatever to do with digital methods. Interpretation of texts,
for example. But then I thought about concept mining and textual analysis
tools that *aid* interpretation, and so the question then became: 'are there
any aspects of humanistic research that will *never* succumb to digital
methods?' I can't think of any.

Indeed, is the meteoritic growth of DH due to an increased interest in our
cultural heritage or just humanists going digital? In the latter case,
digital
humanities seems bound to become just 'humanities' - eventually.

So, will the last true humanist please remember to turn off the lights?

Desmond Schmidt
University of Queensland

On Sun, Aug 9, 2015 at 8:19 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 203.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
> [The following message was not included in Humanist 29.198 for reasons
> unknown. --WM]
>
>         Date: Fri, 7 Aug 2015 10:52:01 -0500
>         From: Paul Fishwick <metaphorz at gmail.com>
>         Subject: the end?
>
>
> My colleague whose office is next to mine just published this. Comments?
>
>
> http://malina.diatrope.com/2015/08/06/yes-again-to-the-end-of-the-digital-humanities-please/
>
> -p
>
> Paul Fishwick, PhD
> Chair, ACM SIGSIM
> Distinguished University Chair of Arts, Technology, and Emerging
> Communication
> 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


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 07:46:23 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the end
        In-Reply-To: <20150809101940.33CC068A5 at digitalhumanities.org>

Some arguments get tired by seemingly endless repetition despite all the 
attempts to counter them. I suppose logically this can be because they 
articulate a persistent truth that a persistent ambition or fear tries 
to put down or the reverse. For me the interesting question is why this 
happens. Appeal to the unknowable future, by direct prediction or by 
analogy, is a handwaving way of escaping that question I hope we can put 
aside here. While it is possible, of course, that digital humanities 
might disappear, be absorbed into the disciplines etc, we should be 
asking whether this is what we want to happen and if asked can say why.

I have two whys for wanting it not to happen: (1) the collision of 
digital representation and interpretation I find an endlessly productive 
intellectual cornucopia; (2) the digitization of our cultural heritage (as 
Jerome McGann has argued at length) demands that we pay attention 
to it if we wish not to be devastatingly impoverished.

Brian Cantwell Smith (in 1995, I think) argued that the great thing 
about digital computing is that it rendered the fact of being digital 
irrelevant. Let us for purposes of argument deny that analogue vinyl 
records and vacuum tube (valve) amplifiers produce a superior, warmer 
etc sound to that put forth from digital files by means of digital 
equipment. Certainly in that case the means of recording and 
reproduction is to the listener completely irrelevant. But to the audio 
engineer, who can detect if not hear the differences, these differences 
matter a great deal, I would think. To whom, looking for what, are these 
very real differences irrelevant?

Consider the perspective of the (en)coder, the database designer, the 
programmer who is pursuing research in the humanities him- or herself 
by digital means. Consider digital humanities as means to do research 
in the humanities, not as a job performed for an "end user" who will then 
go off to do his or her research elsewhere by other means. Consider 
someone who comes moment by moment up against the difference 
between binary representation and interpretative perception.

Let us rid digital humanities permanently of the class distinction 
between technician servant and academic master. Let us look closely at 
what this class distinction has done to both master and servant (by 
reading historical studies of servitude, not by watching Downton Abbey).

Missing also from the tired argument that has surfaced here once again 
is any awareness of the 70-year history of digital humanities, indeed of 
close knowledge of what is actually happening in the research of actual 
digital humanists now. True, this knowledge is difficult to come by amidst 
all the bandwagon handwaving and shouting, all the hype that hides that 
history, as Mike Mahoney used to say. Disciplines are what disciplined 
people do. It seems to me a profound category error to treat any 
discipline as a thing to be defined, as if sense could be made e.g. of 
history, English, computer science, cultural studies and all the rest 
that way, from the outside. (Who as a child was not told, "those who 
live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".) Having made that 
category error is it surprising that the attempts we have for digital 
humanities are such poor things?

Comments?

Yours,
WM

-- 
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, University of Western Sydney




More information about the Humanist mailing list