[Humanist] 30.1 Happy Birthday Humanist!

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat May 7 09:56:47 CEST 2016

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 1.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (69)
        Subject: Happy Birthday Humanist (7 May 1987--)

  [2]   From:    Andrew Prescott <Andrew.Prescott at glasgow.ac.uk>           (14)
        Subject: Significant event

        Date: Sat, 7 May 2016 08:27:59 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: Happy Birthday Humanist (7 May 1987--)

Humanist begins its 30th year today. As we mark birthdays, this is its 29th
birthday, but as you will see in the following message, some think it's time
to celebrate.

How time passes, if that it what it does, whatever it is. We all know that
different kinds of biological creatures live their lives at different rates,
dogs as I recall at seven times the rate of us humans. Our technological
creatures because of technological progress, metaphorically speaking, live
out their lives at a very fast rate indeed, though not as fast as insects.
Social institutions tend to develop very slowly in relation to ourselves and
to last a very long time. But then we have the liberty of constructing their
continuity in retrospect. We calculate the 'life' of the library in
millennia, for example. So where does this leave Humanist, a mixture of
biologically based activity, technological means and social institution?

Humanist began, as some here will know already, in order to bring a few
people, scattered around the world but mostly in N America and the UK,
together to serve as a common does in a small village and to do this well.
(At the time this meant publishing messages without typos, spelling errors
and messed-up formatting.) It was then almost the only such thing available.
But as other services, e.g. personal blogs and Twitter, have come online its
most important function to my mind, perhaps now more obviously than before,
is to raise and discuss substantive questions about the developing nature of
digital humanities, the epistemology of computing, its social effects and
the like and how these draw on and contribute to the older disciplines.

An example might help here. Recently, commenting on the text of a
lecture I've just finished, an friend of mine wrote back to say,

> on the difficult topic of intuition, Aristotle, usually a stickler
> for the straight and narrow, makes a point about quickwittedness
> (agchinoia), that it is a sort of ability to hit the mark (eustochia)
> (Nicomachean Ethics 1142b5ff.). This ability turns out to be a matter
> of spotting the similarity in things that are far apart, he adds
> 'even in philosophy', i.e. not just in poetry and rhetoric (Rhetoric
> 1412a9ff). Like really good metaphor it is not a skill that can be
> learnt (Poetics 1459a5, Rhetoric 1405a9f.). That does not tell us
> which analogies/metaphors/resemblances are the good ones. But it is
> striking that Aristotle, the arch deductivist, recognises their
> power. He is still talking about humans of course and he has no
> models of machines that would enable him to take your computers on
> board. But insofar as these passages see analogising as the key, he
> opens the door to a dialogue with you, as it seems to me.

and to a dialogue between us and the philosophers interested in such
matters. What does it mean to take computers on board in the light of
such questions?

The Humanist common remains despite the pull of the older disciplines on
activities with computing that happen to concern them in particular.
Sometimes I wonder if and sometimes am certain that colleagues in those
disciplines (unlike my friend) simply don't see that what concerns them
mutatis mutandis concerns everyone, and that its particular form in this or
that discipline tells us all something important about digital epistemology,
anthropology, sociology or whatever. Will it turn out to be that a small
band of interdisciplinary raiders continues to have far too much work to do
merely in gathering together insights from across the disciplines?

Perhaps I should not, especially on Humanist's birthday, be complaining.
Being such a raider is what I enjoy most. But in the course of an ordinary
life birthdays rather soon become occasions on which the fact of mortality
is hard to avoid. Usually the upcoming 30th marks the end of youth, the
beginning of serious maturity, when people (such as parents) begin to wonder
out loud when you're going to settle down, have children, buy a house, get a
mortgage etc. I think the anti-DH sentiment recently marked here might well
be interpreted as just such a sharp parental question. At least sometimes if
not often this question has the odour of a death-sentence. Personally I
think we should answer it on behalf of Humanist and the field it stands for
by enacting a plan for becoming differently, more interestingly, more
intelligently wild.

Happy birthday to us all!

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London

        Date: Thu, 5 May 2016 16:01:26 +0000
        From: Andrew Prescott <Andrew.Prescott at glasgow.ac.uk>
        Subject: Significant event

Dear Willard,

Greetings from Rome via a very flaky internet connection to congratulate you and Humanist on a significant event on 7 May, when the Humanist numbering system will flick over to 30, signifying that Humanist is entering its thirtieth year of operation, moving towards its thirtieth birthday on 7 May 2017. Thirty years of a daily stream of thought-provoking, entertaining, intellectually rigorous, informative and useful postings is an amazing achievement. Humanist has played a fundamental role in the emergence of the digital humanities and has shown how new technologies can enable new disciplinary alignments.

Some of Humanist's admirers have been plotting to mark Humanist's achievement, and we cannot think of a better way of doing so than as part of the U.K. National festival of the humanities, 'Being Human', which takes place this year from 17-25 November 2016. Professor Jane Winters of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London and I will be organising an event during the festival to mark Humanist’s tyhirtieth year of operation, and further details will be given here when the programme for the festival is announced. We will be producing a digital representation of the event, which wil be linked back to material from the Humanist annals, and will be made available on Humanist’s 30th birthday in 2017.

In the meantime, Willard and Humanist, here's a Peroni beer toast to your wonderful achievement.


Andrew Prescott FSA FRHistS
Professor of Digital Humanities
AHRC Theme Leader Fellow for Digital Transformations
University of Glasgow

andrew.prescott at glasgow.ac.uk

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