[Humanist] 29.50 scholars and zealots

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri May 22 07:17:57 CEST 2015


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 50.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Thu, 21 May 2015 18:55:58 +0900
        From: Robert B Allen <rba at boballen.info>
        Subject: Re:  29.45 scholars and zealots  (Community modeling)
        In-Reply-To: <20150521054428.87FBAC29 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard,

You  may be interested in some of my work on "Community Models".  

Allen, R.B. and Chu, YM., Towards a Full-Text Historical Digital
Library, ICADL, LNCS 8839, 2014, 218-226, 
http://boballen.info/RBA/PAPERS/ICADL2014/ICADL2014.pdf

Chu, Y.M., and Allen. R.B., Structured Descriptions of Roles,
Activities, and Procedures in the Roman Constitution, IRCDL, 2015,
http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.04108

Allen, R.B., and Chu, Y.M., Architectures for Complex Semantic Models,
IEEE Conference on Big Data and Smart Computing, Feb. 2015,
http://boballen.info/RBA/PAPERS/BIGCOMP15/Allen_Chu_BigComp15.pdf

Allen, R.B., Toward an Interactive Directory for Norfolk, Nebraska:
1899-1900, IFLA Newspaper and Genealogy Section Meeting, Singapore, Aug
2013. arXiv:1308.5395, IFLA,
http://arxiv.org/abs/1308.5395

Sincerely,
Bob Allen

On Thu, May 21, 2015, at 02:44 PM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 45.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>         Date: Wed, 20 May 2015 07:10:01 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: scholars and zealots
> 
> 
> I take John Bonnett's point about some fine and interesting work in
> agent-based modelling for the historical disciplines -- and his
> well-chosen
> biblical analogy. Generative social science (Joshua Epstein's term) and
> simulation done in the agent-based style show great promise for many
> areas
> of research that concern us. Considering a regular pattern of behaviour,
> the
> generativist's question (in Epstein's words, "How could the decentralized
> local interactions of heterogeneous autonomous agents generate the given
> regularity?") is a powerful one. This has been clear for the social
> sciences
> from the time of Thomas Schelling's "Models of Segregation" in 1969, and
> indeed for literary studies from the initial efforts to simulate the
> writing
> of poetry, which began very early -- and spooked F. R. Leavis among
> others,
> thus showing that an important nerve had been touched. The work that 
> Epstein, Robert Axtell and others have done on the Anasazi (published 
> e.g. in PNAS 99.3) shows how successfully the Sadducees have been
> outwitted, agent-based work by Bogdanovych and others at Western Sydney
> likewise, indeed Bonnett's own work at Brock. In fact I am arguing now,
> in a
> forthcoming book chapter, that agent-based modelling is where our
> attention
> should be directed. 
> 
> But in my effort to be brief and provocative I'm afraid I turned a blind
> eye
> to all that, meaning to pick out the techno-triumphalist chorus that does
> not adequately appreciate the difference between promise and fulfilment
> --
> and does not seem to know about the marvellously subversive
> counterfactual
> power of simulation. I'm concerned for the slippage between "as if" and
> "is". Treatment of literature or history *as if* it were a complex system
> (in the specific and technical sense) can very easily become the
> assumption
> that it *is* one. This slippage is, of course, nothing new. One of my
> favourite remarks on this slippage was tossed out casually in passing by
> the
> American neurophysiologist Ralph W. Gerard in 1951, at the Seventh Macy
> Conference on cybernetics:
> 
> >  It seems to me, in looking back over the history of the group, that
> > we started our discussion in the "œas if" spirit. Everyone was
> > delighted to express any idea that came in his mind, whether it
> > seemed silly or certain or merely a stimulating guess that would
> > affect someone else. We explored possibilities for all sorts of
> > "˜ifs."™ Then, rather sharply, it seemed to me, we began to talk in an
> > "is"™ idiom. We were saying much the same things, but now saying them
> > as if they were so....
> 
> For an assessment of what's been done in history, I'd point to Marten
> Düring, 
> "The Potential of Agent-Based Modelling for Historical Research", in Paul 
> A. Youngman and Mirsad Hadzikadic, eds., Complexity and
 the Human 
> Experience: Modeling Complexity in the Humanities and Social Sciences 
> (2014). He quotes archaeologist Jim Doran's telling comment:
> 
> > As regards the future, there is a deep further difficulty that is all
> > too often overlooked. Distinctive human social structures and social
> > processes emerge from distinctive human cognition. But we do not yet
> > know how to model human cognition on a computer in other than
> > relatively superficial and oversimplified ways. Thus we cannot yet
> > experiment with the models that really matter: those that capture
> > more than simple routine cognitive behavior. Archaeology faces this
> > challenge as do all the social sciences. For help we need to look to
> > developments in artificial intelligence engineering and in cognitive
> > science modeling.
> 
> I'd have us press on with as-if explorations but not lose the plot -- and
> so become zealots!
> 
> 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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