[Humanist] 29.24 billions of pages' worth

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed May 13 07:15:08 CEST 2015


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 24.
            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>        (132)
        Subject: Re:  29.17 billions of pages' worth

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (18)
        Subject: the times they keep on changin'


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 13 May 2015 10:14:54 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.17 billions of pages' worth
        In-Reply-To: <20150512052920.09BCC653F at digitalhumanities.org>


Hi Fabio,

I think it is misleading to describe technical transitions such as
SGML->XML or XML->JSON as a "war of religion". That term might be an
appropriate analogy if it were a mere matter of taste to choose between
two concurrent and competing technologies, but not to describe technical
succession. Don't get me wrong: JSON is not a replacement for all uses
of XML (like TEI), but it is a suitable format for metadata. What
surprised me in the Hathi Trust announcement was their decision to
choose JSON, where just a few years ago anything other than XML would
have been unthinkable. Taken together with my earlier comments on
Humanist (28.79 events: HTML5 and XML, 4th June) concerning the talk at
Balisage last year characterising XML as a "legacy" technology, and my
earlier remarks on the abandonment of many XML functions in DH database
migration (Re: 28.383 PostGreSQL and Solr for digital archives? 10 Oct
2014), and also several graphs on Google Trends etc that one cannot
dismiss technological change involving XML as a mere religious war.

As to whether JSON is better than XML, I have never understood what
purpose is served by the arcane distinction between attributes and
elements, or why tag-names must be repeated at element-end. The only
thing these two features achieve is to exacerbate complexity and
confusion for the user. And what is superfluous will, in time, simply
disappear. I would agree with the chief engineer of XML that "for
important use cases JSON is dramatically better than XML" (James Clark,
2010). And that is not a religious statement. It is rather, as Willard
suggests, a "sign of the times".

Desmond Schmidt
University of Queensland

On Tue, May 12, 2015 at 3:29 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 17.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Mon, 11 May 2015 10:16:41 +0200
>         From: Fabio Ciotti <fabio.ciotti at uniroma2.it>
>         Subject: Re:  29.14 billions of pages' worth: sign of the times?
>         In-Reply-To: <20150510061135.A040A669C at digitalhumanities.org>
>
>
> >
> > Some of my colleagues may be interested to note that all of this vast
> > collection of metadata is in JSON, not XML format.
> > Due to access restrictions I couldn't apparently download any actual
> text,
> > but the format of that seems to be plain text or PDF.
> > Time to move on from XML?
> >
>
> Maybe, maybe not, I personally cannot see where Json is better than XML,
> and overall where is really different from XML in the competence of the
> average user.
>
> That said, and I hope not to raise again this rather boring war of religion
> that goes on since 1986 (the date of SGML standardization, only to fix a
> conventional kick off...), I wonder if all of these (meta)data are really
> of any interest for a literary scholar? Is this big data deluge that we can
> play with using purely quantitative methods, giving us any insight about
> texts? Out of the hype, I really would like to know if someone on the
> community of digital literary scholar is really thinking about the adequacy
> of these methods. Of course I do not want to raise another war of religion,
> just a good ole controversy based on argumentation.
>
> Fabio
[...]


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 13 May 2015 06:09:09 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the times they keep on changin'
        In-Reply-To: <20150512052920.09BCC653F at digitalhumanities.org>

I suppose what quickly becomes 'religious' about reaction to a 
technological transition, particularly one involving the computer, is 
unreasoning resistance to change, as if an axiomatic bedrock had been 
reached. (I use the quaint term 'the computer' deliberately to suggest 
how far we've come.) I'd suppose that as long as everything we do is 
algorithmically transformable our efforts are not Oxymandian. But isn't 
it the case that every digital metalanguage we design incorporates 
mutable, partial conceptions of the world in it? Aren't we always 
meta-modelling? I'd suppose further that working on ways of facilitating 
our ability to change with the times would be a fine meta-project for us 
all.

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




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