[Humanist] 30.503 state of relations

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Nov 18 08:18:37 CET 2016


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 503.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Susan Ford <susan.ford at anu.edu.au>                        (48)
        Subject: RE:  30.498 state of relations

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (45)
        Subject: theorising


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2016 07:44:28 +0000
        From: Susan Ford <susan.ford at anu.edu.au>
        Subject: RE:  30.498 state of relations
        In-Reply-To: <20161117073354.4047D80AA at digitalhumanities.org>


If 'only computing people are able to appreciate the end product' then it ain't the right product.

Susan
-----------------
Dr Susan Ford
Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity
College of Asia and the Pacific
Coombs building, 9 Fellows Rd
The Australian National University
________________________________________
> From: humanist-bounces at lists.digitalhumanities.org [humanist-bounces at lists.digitalhumanities.org] on behalf of Humanist Discussion Group [willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk]
> Sent: 17 November 2016 18:33
> To: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> Subject: [Humanist] 30.498 state of relations

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 498.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2016 06:20:22 -0600
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  30.497 state of relations?
        In-Reply-To: <20161116070147.7E38E81FC at digitalhumanities.org>

Why not subservience? How can congruence and subservience be two different things until DH is coherently theorized in some way that is relatively independent of any humanities discipline (try to imagine what that would look like)? Otherwise, the computing component of DH can only relate to the humanities component of DH as a set of tools or practices, most of which have been around for quite some time.

I think the persons who tried to perform this task would need dual doctorates in humanities and computing. I'd imagine the humanities discipline would be philosophy, maybe working with people like Robert Brandom.

Another fruitful path might be the creative route, but I think we'd still need a high level of dual competence, and only computing people would be able to appreciate the end product.

Jim R

> This is a question answers to which will be especially helpful if they
> come from a wide variety of disciplines. Certain knowledge would be good
> but is unlikely, so guesses will do.
>
> Here's the question:
>
> How congruent is digital humanities with the central concerns of your
> discipline? What is its potential to change the discipline in ways that
> you think would be healthy AND that are recognised as such or have a
> good chance of becoming thus recognised?
>
> The history of digital humanities from the late 1940s until the 1990s
> suggests to me that congruence (not subservience, not revolutionary
> insurrection) is crucial. Though the ranting of the ignored and the din of
> battle tell us much about both computing and the humanities, the
> transformations that people seem to want come about by like answering to
> like. (Disagreements about this most welcome.)
>
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2016 08:34:27 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: theorising
        In-Reply-To: <20161117073354.4047D80AA at digitalhumanities.org>


Thanks to James Rovira for challenging my question of relations by asking
what it would look like to have a "coherently theorized" practice of digital
humanities. But I wonder: what would any discipline in the humanities look
like if coherently theorized?

Take history, for example. Would all historians welcome that ? (Historically
speaking, some have thundered against any explicitly stated coherence and
written books in answer to the problem.) At least some students of English
literature (to pick another example) would say that they're still recovering
from having been theorized. 

In other words, with regards to disciplines it seems to me that there are at
least two problems here. One is certainly with the term 'theory', which
needs a great deal more thought if it is to be used other than as a synonym
for 'notion' or 'idea'. Isn't its meaning relative to the disciplinary
context in which it is used? I would think that it should carry a cognitive
health-warning: don't make me into a transcendental virtue. The word slips
and slides all over the place. Even now, after so much careful thought,
powerful arguments and beautiful work, it still sneaks into our discussions
the ghost of an old, abandoned physics.

The other problem is with 'coherent'. Does a theorised discipline pass if
there are many internally coherent theories of it? Do they need to be
compatible with each other?

But still James' challenge admonishes helpfully. My version of it is a
question: how is digital humanities of as well as in the humanities? I say,
let's wield the power of those two prepositions to imagine what a
free-standing, collegial digital humanities would look like, not worried
about its internal politics but worrying its intellectual agenda. My notion
(or theory, if you like) is that it comes from asking this question of
relations -- asking it of every discipline with which digital humanities has
some relation.

Last night I attended the launch of the new King's Digital Lab
(https://www.kdl.kcl.ac.uk), complementing its parent Department of Digital
Humanities. The website defines it: "We create digital tools to explore
academic research in new ways." Finding out by making things, the creation
of 'thing knowledge', about which philosopher Davis Baird (in a book of that
title) has more than adequately theorised, as have a number of others, e.g.
Lorraine Daston and her group at the Max Planck Institut für
Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. Perhaps we can see the Digital Lab's short
sentence as an admirably succinct statement of a coherent theory?

Comments?

Yours,
WM

--
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
University




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