[Humanist] 31.217 on mathematics: mixed and manipulatory
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Jul 30 09:37:02 CEST 2017
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 217.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Sun, 30 Jul 2017 08:10:21 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: mixed and manipulatory
Rather than talk exclusively about 'applied' mathematics, which suggests
taking a tool developed elsewhere, then applying it in a new
situation, I'd like to hear more about what was once called mixed
mathematics (Oki, Historia Scientarum 23.2, 2013), also known as
physico-mathematics (Schuster, Synthese 185, 2012) or sub-scientific
(Høyrup, Hist. of Science 28.1, 1990), and in anthropology,
ethnomathematics (Ascher, Mathematics Elsewhere, 2002). I know, I am
blurring over some distinctions here, but my basic interest is in
getting at manipulatory, combinatoric operations in which some kind of
mathematics, even if by proxy, accompanies or arises from
kinaesthesis, as when you count with your fingers or move calculi
(little stones) around, i.e. compute with an abacus. How about (to
shift to geometry), when a South Pacific islander moves a boat
according to a memorised schematic of the sea currents?
It seems to me that the term 'mixed mathematics' would do us well,
at least as a starting point, but then I am conditioned by my history.
I learned programming first from assembler language (e.g., in English,
'load accumulator with contents of memory location X, shift left
accumulator 1 bit, store result in memory location Y') and similar.
So I have a penchant for thinking of what goes on computationally
in such physical terms. But what about those not so long in the tooth?
Does computing have kinaesthetic appeal or meaning? Is there
anything here worth developing?
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, 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)
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