[Humanist] 31.487 Happy Christmas 2017!
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Dec 22 12:07:48 CET 2017
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 487.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2017 10:59:26 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: Happy Christmas 2017!
Academics, especially retired ones, have the blessed liberty of shutting
down many days prior to Christmas if not starting the process a few
weeks earlier. I've been spending a bit of my liberated time reading
Dame Anne Salmond's Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds (Auckland
2017). Salmond's field is Maori Studies. She writes of New Zealand "as a
site of cosmo-diversity, a place where multiple worlds engage and
collide". I am wanting to know more about such engagements and
collisions, ontological and epistemological, and so have wandered into
recent work in anthropology, Amazonian and South Pacific mostly, and
into ethnomathematics, contemporary and historical.
Recall Kurt Vonnegut's Bokonon, in Cat's Cradle: "Peculiar travel
suggestions are dancing lessons from God." This dancing lesson
originated with a colleague's invitation to a workshop with
anthropologists at Cambridge last Summer. So now I stumble around an
unexpected dance floor, crowded with accommodating and helpful
anthropologists and their fellow travelers. I do this in aid of a
project to figure out what we might do with the computing we could have
if, as seems likely to me, it gets where it appears to be going, toward
dynamic, participant-observatory simulation of possible worlds and
artificial companions. This is decidedly not futurology, rather a study
of possibilities, with the conviction that studying them gives us (who
are in worldly terms weak) a lever and fulcrum with which to move things
before they become too heavy. In any case, I am fascinated. And I admit
to having no qualms to talk about it openly, knowing that no one is
likely to be crazy enough to try the same, and if someone is and does,
that he or she will do it differently. The more the better, no?
All of which is a way of saying, at a time long established, what I
think Humanist is for, and which it occasionally demonstrates: to
provide the bottles in which notes to unknown recipients may be put,
then cast into the virtual sea. Who knows what comes of them? Strategic
thinking is important within institutions, for the good of them and for
advancement of careers, but intellectually (an old-fashioned word?) let
us have more of curiosity, less of strategy! At the same time the job
adverts, notices of publications, announcements of new centres and
institutes &c are hugely significant -- and especially welcome to
someone old enough to remember a past when there were no such jobs to be
advertised, few publications, many fewer centres and so on -- when any
association with computing was the kiss of death for a young academic.
The problem now is, of course, to do intelligent things with these
A few weeks ago I was a guest of the Transylvania Digital Humanities
Centre, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, which enviably
begins with many examples to hand and choice among them. Cluj is the
birthplace of the great Renaissance monarch Matthias Corvinus, who built
a library that rivaled the Bibliotheca Vaticana (until it was destroyed
in war) and whom Marsilio Ficino regarded a Platonic philosopher-king.
We can have great expectations of this centre -- expectations that
location and history will inflect in surprising ways, and so teach us
what we otherwise would never have thought.
Now, back home, all travelling and almost all preparations done, I write
these words as messages telling me that "the holiday offers are almost
over!" and that I can take them up and get the goodies delivered to the
door by tomorrow. I've chosen, rather, to enjoy a bout of sharp elbows
in the local supermarket so that I can get busy in the kitchen for the
final push. (Preparations began with the Christmas cake and pudding in
Yesterday, in this rather northerly location in the Northern Hemisphere,
was the winter solstice. Now in slow degrees more light. But wherever
you are within reach of Humanist, allow me to wish you the very best,
for now, for 2018, for as long as the tether stretches!
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of
Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western
Sydney University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)
More information about the Humanist