[Humanist] 23.150 why dig

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jul 11 09:12:48 CEST 2009

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 150.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

[1]   From:    D.Zeitlyn <D.Zeitlyn at kent.ac.uk>                           (5)
Subject: RE: [Humanist] 23.148 why dig?

[2]   From:    Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>                (33)
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.148 why dig?

Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2009 09:59:34 +0100
From: D.Zeitlyn <D.Zeitlyn at kent.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: [Humanist] 23.148 why dig?
In-Reply-To: <20090710075229.215E131D0B at woodward.joyent.us>


good question as ever. I would add to the mix the reminder that as well as being a philosopher of history  R.G. Collingwood worked as a practical (field) archaeologist in the UK Lake District.

What I find appealing about the metaphor is the way in which conclusions are reached on the basis of (sometimes) fragile/incomplete evidence but in ways which allow/encourage the connections between evidence and conclusions to be traced and discussed.

best wishes

Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2009 07:59:55 -0600
From: Sterling Fluharty <phdinhistory at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.148 why dig?
I suspect this metaphor has something in common with the oral- and laboring
traditions of academically-trained historians.  If you spend enough time
with them, you will hear them talking about mining footnotes and
bibliographies and finding nuggets in the archives.  This kinds of
expressions rarely make it into print, but they reflect the sense that
historians, through quite a bit of laborious sifting, are discovering
sources that are relevant for their research. The significance may be that
historians, like those who have mined for precious metals, can point with
pride to the fruit of their extractive labors.  I think this helps explain
why historians do not feel a natural affinity for concepts like text mining.
Once historians realize that text mining takes away the chance they have to
work with their hands to find the proverbial needle in the haystack, since
the computer does the sifting digitally, most historians lose interest in
these algorithmic possibilities and return to their comfortable pattern of
using the machine to direct and carry out their own searching and sorting of
sources. So perhaps the NEH has shrewdly retained the digging metaphor in an
attempt to make text mining more palatable to traditional historians who are
accustomed to controlling and reaping the rewards of their own labor.

Best wishes,
Sterling Fluharty
University of New Mexico

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