[Humanist] 30.168 theory

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jul 14 10:44:47 CEST 2016


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 168.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Paul Fishwick <metaphorz at gmail.com>                       (68)
        Subject: Re:  30.164 theory

  [2]   From:    Benjamin Vis <B.N.Vis at kent.ac.uk>                          (6)
        Subject: Theory


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2016 09:47:34 -0400
        From: Paul Fishwick <metaphorz at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  30.164 theory
        In-Reply-To: <20160713060025.318FA790E at digitalhumanities.org>


Jim Rovira asks:

> Do we ever study
> the Mona Lisa the way we study quasars or plant growth? Would we want to?

The answer is yes to both questions. I want to know everything about the Mona Lisa
from personal interpretations to details on Da Vinci’s paintings that have been processed
by neural networks. Our research lab is focused on allowing these multiple interpretations
to occur naturally by using Wiki-editing, crowdsourcing, and bluetooth proximity beacons.
We need to “get inside each others’ heads” to broaden the interpretive field. Epistemological
pluralism provides an umbrella phrase:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemological_pluralism <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemological_pluralism>

-paul

> On Jul 13, 2016, at 2:00 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 164.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2016 12:25:58 -0500
>        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
>        Subject: Re:  30.160 theory
>        In-Reply-To: <20160712052040.9F8C07B2D at digitalhumanities.org>
> 
> 
> Thanks very much for your reply, Benjamin, and yes, any discussion
> involving the word "humanities" will have to spend some time on a
> definition of the term that will inevitably lead to an impasse. There's a
> very good, though brief, selection of quotations on 4Humanities that may be
> helpful:
> 
> http://4humanities.org/2014/12/what-are-the-humanities/
> 
> My impression is that the concept of the humanities developed out of the
> traditional liberal arts to distinguish math and empirical science from
> humanistic disciplines, a distinction which would of course pre-date the
> rise of social science. Among these definitions, the humanities seem to
> encompass a subset of sociological and psychological research but not
> either of these entire disciplines: it may be better to say that humanities
> study often relies on sociology and psychology (which brings us right back
> to "literary theory" or "theory"), but not necessarily the other way
> around. One phrase shared by the last two quotations is "the humanities and
> social sciences," which simultaneously implies that they belong together
> and yet are two different things.
> 
> I tend to prefer more limiting definitions than more extended ones as that
> helps communication. Any study of a physical object can be considered
> empirical research, but how many studies of the Mona Lisa are
> experimentally replicable in terms of the object itself? Do we ever study
> the Mona Lisa the way we study quasars or plant growth? Would we want to?
> 
> Jim R


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  http://utdallas.edu/atec/fishwick
Blog 1: creative-automata.com  http://creative-automata.com/
Blog 2: modelingforeveryone.com  http://modelingforeveryone.com/
LinkedIn: metaphorz
Twitter: @PaulFishwick



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2016 17:34:00 +0000
        From: Benjamin Vis <B.N.Vis at kent.ac.uk>
        Subject: Theory
        In-Reply-To: <20160713060025.318FA790E at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Jim,

Thanks for this helpful reply.  I understand in the light of its difficult to manage plurality, one would prefer a more restrictive definition. Considering I typically consider myself to do social sciences, even though for most purposes my activities are grouped under the humanities. Perhaps in certain regards they are the same, but the further increased diversity doesn't help in cross-disciplinary clarity. A restrictive definition of something that is as difficult to grasp as the humanities can cause confusion, however,  and for me empiricism is easily included in the humanities too (as it is in the social sciences). The relevance is, I guess, that this empirical and conceptual parts of humanities (or anywhere else) is what causes theoretical difficulties,  and perhaps at times is emphasised in the digital.

For what it's worth, there is a host to study about the Mona Lisa empirically. As an object, some of this would be repeatable (though I don't think empirical scientific processes necessarily are, it's just more difficult to reason with their outcomes and ramifications if they're not) and some of it would not be. As reception there is also a lot of empirical work that could be done. Am I misunderstanding?

In terms of humanities as in human understanding and creativity or what have you, there is certainly a role for empirical enquiries simply because it's empiricism can be aligned with the empiricism of human and social reality. Undoubtedly, the type of knowledge produced will depend on it. I'm wondering (and realising I may be overlooking something incredibly obvious) whether there is any evidence that is not on some level at least empirical and isn't evidence a prerequisite for making any enquiry? (I feel thunderclouds packing above my head but seem too obtuse to think of any examples to the contrary.) Mostly it seems to me to come down to how we get our evidence and what we do with evidence. (Perhaps my definition of empirical is too broad?)

Benjamin

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