[Humanist] 24.797 our basic furniture?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Mar 18 08:09:48 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 797.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2011 07:05:14 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: basic furniture of scholarship

Let us say that you are preparing to make a Great Leap (forward or 
backward, as the case may be) from one kind of computing system to 
another, such as from PC to Mac. What would be on your list for basic 
functions at the level of ordinary scholarly work that you would want to 
find software to perform on the new system? In particular if you made a 
list of types or functions of software (i.e. wordprocessing, not 
Microsoft Word) that have become simply part of the furniture of your 
daily life, what would be on that list? What could you not do without, 
that is, without changing your work to the point that it would be 
different work? I expect that the list would be rather short.

My underlying question is this: in the development of computing systems, 
what functions have become so completely successful that we use them 
without thought, like household appliances? Has the list of functions 
become stable? Is it finite? If so, does this mean that change will only 
be to the efficiencies with which these functions are performed? If not, 
then what do we expect to be the next new function to become an 
effectively invisible appliance? What does that process look like? 
What important functions do we *not* want to become thus invisible?


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, www.mccarty.org.uk;
Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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