[Humanist] 29.467 prototypes? analogue and digital?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Nov 11 09:19:21 CET 2015


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 467.
            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>          (17)
        Subject: prototypes constrain

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (50)
        Subject: analogue digital humanities?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 10 Nov 2015 10:12:57 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: prototypes constrain


In "The relationship of analogical distance to analogical function and
preinventive structure: The case of engineering design", Bo T. Christensen
and Christian D. Schunn remark that in designing something new, the greater
the degree of resemblance with something old the easier the designer's job
becomes. But they go on to say that, "The use of distant analogies may be
positively related to originality in design." They note "anecdotal evidence
of distant analogizing leading to breakthrough discoveries" but find little
evidence of whether in fact practicing designers who go beyond their domain
of expertise end up being more inventive.

What is our experience in digital humanities' software engineering? Do 
successful prototypes put a damper on invention?

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: Tue, 10 Nov 2015 11:34:13 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: analogue digital humanities?


In "Visual analogy -- A strategy for design reasoning and learning" (in 
Eastman, McCracken and Newstetter, eds., Design Knowing and Learning, 
2001), Gabriela Goldschmidt comments that in the 1960s,

> the design research community in its entirety, more or less,
> subscribed to the notion that design practices should be made to
> follow exacting methods.... Members of the so-called "design methods
> movement" worked hard to help develop a design science: it was seen
> as an important step forward in the evolution of the design
> disciplines and their standing among the professions....
> Consequently, so-called 'traditional' design practices, based on
> 'soft' strategies including intuition and the use of informal
> knowledge were looked down upon. In contrast, the idea of a 'hard'
> analytic science of design sounded very appealing, as eloquently
> expressed by members of the methods movement....

including Herbert Simon. But it turns out, she remarks, that "in most if 
not all design domains, rigorous design methods based on well-defined 
algorithms do not yield the expected improvement in design quality". 
In other words, such 'design science' has failed. This leaves 
designers with a dilemma:

> On the one hand, we are uncomfortable with our traditional,
> experiential, 'trial and error' teaching traditions; on the other
> hand, we fall short of being able to effectively transmit a
> comprehensive codex of design knowledge, including procedural
> knowledge about how to design and how to reason about designing. It
> is for this reason that design reasoning has become a research topic
> of great importance, motivated by the hope that knowing more about
> natural design reasoning processes would pave the way for modes of
> enhancing and teaching it.

Rule-based (algorithmic) reasoning "is no longer universally accepted as 
an absolute truth"; interest has shifted to the relationship between 
rule-based and similarity-based reasoning, reflecting better, some 
argue, how we actually do the job.

This raises the question of how we do the job in digital humanities -- 
and how we might do it. Rule-based text-analysis is handy but severely 
limited. How about similarity-based, i.e. analogical reasoning -- the 
kind manifested in analog computing devices? I'm not suggesting return 
to analog machines such as Bush's Memex, rather a simulation of analog 
machinery as the platform on which digital humanities work can at least 
partially be done.

We do this already, of course, in the GUI. But then we take analogue 
computing for granted. Some even argue that the digital substrate is 
irrelevant -- that we are in that sense "post-digital". Is it? Are we? Or 
is there enormous potential in paying attention to both digital and 
analog, in different contexts for different purposes?

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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