[Humanist] 29.39 changed and not changed

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue May 19 10:01:44 CEST 2015


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 39.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Allen B. Riddell" <abr at ariddell.org>                    (105)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.36 changed?

  [2]   From:    Daniel Rockmore <dnrockmore at gmail.com>                     (7)
        Subject: Re:  29.36 changed?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 18 May 2015 06:56:23 -0400
        From: "Allen B. Riddell" <abr at ariddell.org>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.36 changed?
        In-Reply-To: <20150518084826.5539F670B at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard,

Thank you for the amazing quotation from Woodward!

For thoughtful histories of the debates among historians about the use
of quantitative methods (organized principally around a history of rise
of cultural history in the 1970s and 1980s), I find the following two
works valuable:

- Sewell Jr., William H. Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation. University Of Chicago Press, 2005.
- Eley, Geoff. A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society. University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Best wishes,

Allen Riddell

On 05/18, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 36.
>             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: panic and preparation
> 
>   [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (36)
>         Subject: unanticipated change
> 
> 
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Sun, 17 May 2015 10:40:28 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: panic and preparation
> 
> 
> C. Vann Woodward, commenting in the Journal of Contemporary History 3.2 
> (1968) on the zealotry of some quantifying historians:
> 
> > It is mainly our young who need to be protected. I find among them a
> > mood of incipient panic, a mounting fear of technological
> > displacement, and a disposition among a few to rush into the camp of
> > the zealots.... But a small cadre should definitely be armed with all
> > the weapons, trained in all the techniques, and schooled in the
> > ideology of the invaders. Only in that way will they be able
> > effectively to cope with the philistines among us, to be on guard
> > against their sophistries, see through their pretensions, and turn to
> > the uses of our craft such tricks and notions of these people as meet
> > our standards and serve our needs.
> 
> My question is this: how much of Woodward's description would need to be 
> changed to apply today once the "incipient panic" of the Cold War era is 
> subtracted? We have our zealots (now of agent-based modelling); we have 
> technological displacement; we have plenty of techno-ideology and its 
> attendant sophistries. Does the fact of continual and apparently 
> unending technological change mean that the above will always be with us?
> 
> 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
> 
> 
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Sun, 17 May 2015 12:33:03 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: unanticipated change
> 
> 
> Now here's something that has changed. Also in 1967 the redoubtable J. 
> H. Hexter, in "Some American Observations" (Journal of Contemporary 
> History 2.1), chronicled the explosive growth in higher education in his 
> country and the equally explosive growth in research outputs, then asked,
> 
> > how in the world do we deal discriminately and in a timesaving way
> > with this appalling mass of stuff? The problem will soon be
> > compounded by the development and application to historical
> > bibliography of the resources of elaborate information retrieval
> > systems. As near as one can make out, such systems will be at once
> > highly sophisticated at the level of taxonomic selectivity, and quite
> > stupid at the level of qualitative discrimination. They will be able
> > to pick out all the articles on any subject whatever, and wholly
> > unable to say which, if any, of them are worth five minutes'
> > attention. Their very competence at directing a researcher to all the
> > recent literature in any field will compound his already staggering
> > problem of picking his way through the field without sinking up to
> > his neck in the dreary morass of wasted words. An attack on the
> > problem of quality discrimination more persistent, systematic, and
> > concentrated than any made so far should have a high place on the
> > agenda of the profession. The old informal devices for finding one's
> > way to what is good in current historiography are inadequate to the
> > present situation, and a search for a way to provide historians with
> > a reliable quality indicator, a sort of historiographic Guide
> > Michelin, is overdue.
> 
> What Hexter did not see, and perhaps could not have seen, is that the 
> very lack of these retrieval systems' ability to discriminate has, I'd 
> argue, changed or is changing our ideas of "what is good". It also led 
> to Google, which I suspect is changing our ideas of what is relevant. 
> And not necessarily for the good, I'd say.
> 
> Comments? Who has written cogently on such changes?
> 
> 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




--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 18 May 2015 07:09:22 -0400
        From: Daniel Rockmore <dnrockmore at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.36 changed?
        In-Reply-To: <20150518105623.GA3532 at gibbs>


Allen,

Thanks for passing on these remarks: fascinating. As relates to the search
problem, my recent little HuffPo essay might
be of interest!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-rockmore/too-big-to-search_b_7211898.html

All best,
Dan





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