[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?

Suggestions? Comments?

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)

More information about the Humanist mailing list