[Humanist] 24.798 our basic furniture

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Mar 19 08:30:31 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 798.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Postles, David A. (Dr.)" <pot at leicester.ac.uk>            (8)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.797 our basic furniture?

  [2]   From:    Richard Lewis <richard.lewis at gold.ac.uk>                  (74)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.797 our basic furniture?

  [3]   From:    Martin Holmes <mholmes at uvic.ca>                           (61)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.797 our basic furniture?

        Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2011 11:44:51 +0000
        From: "Postles, David A. (Dr.)" <pot at leicester.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.797 our basic furniture?
        In-Reply-To: <20110318070948.5BCCF11A8D0 at woodward.joyent.us>


        Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2011 12:42:30 +0000
        From: Richard Lewis <richard.lewis at gold.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.797 our basic furniture?
        In-Reply-To: <20110318070948.5BCCF11A8D0 at woodward.joyent.us>

At Fri, 18 Mar 2011 07:05:14 +0000 (GMT),
Willard McCarty wrote:
> 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?

 * Email client; with threaded view, integrated contacts management,
   and mechanism to store links to messages. I'm sure most scholarly
   communication, which may be the primary enabler of scholarly
   activity, is carried out by email.

 * Text editor; almost everything I deal with on a daily basis is some
   class of text editing.

 * Task list manager; I'm a stickler for TODO lists. In fact, I'm
   writing this reply in fulfilment of a TODO note.

 * Text searching; (such as grep)

 * Web browser; all my research which isn't empirical is either
   carried out using, or at least initiated by information found on
   the Web; preferably it should have a reasonable JavaScript

 * IRC client (or maybe this is too specific?); although we have a
   nice shared office space, my research group is very much cohered by
   its IRC channel.

 * PDF viewer (again, maybe too specific?). Despite the wonders of
   hypertext (which seem now to have been largely abused as a
   mechanism for enabling meta-publishing and which never seemed to
   take hold in scholarly publishing with a few notable exceptions),
   most scholarly publication is either print or print-a-like.

 * Typesetter; for the same reasons as above, we need to publish stuff
   that looks good (or at least conventional) on an A4 page.

 * A scripting language (such as Emacs Lisp, JavaScript, or Python);
   it's often preferable to spend three hours scripting a method to
   prepare data for analysis than it is to spend three hours carrying
   out a repetitive task to the same end.

> 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?

So one application class I didn't include is a (multi)media viewer
(unless you count a Web browser as such). This has certainly become a
new class of application in the last 20(?) years implying that maybe
the list is subject to change.

Have file management (by which I mean the things that computing
systems call files) utilities taken on this status? How many users
feel that they make efficient and invisible use of their computer's
file management capabilities? Or are we still learning? Or do we hope
that this will be replaced by some other metaphor?

> If so, does this mean that change will only be to the efficiencies
> with which these functions are performed?

Possibly my suggestion of a scripting language is only now becoming
more widely accepted. Of course, we have had scripting languages in
our computing systems since the earliest days, but I think scripting
using content from the Web and using the browser as UI is rapidly
becoming the domain of more and more practitioners. However, this
probably is, as Willard describes, merely an increase in efficiency
and not a new paradigm of computing.

> If not, then what do we expect to be the next new function to become
> an effectively invisible appliance?

Possibly whatever replaces the desktop UI model.

Richard Lewis
ISMS, Computing
Goldsmiths, University of London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7078 5134
Skype: richardjlewis
JID: ironchicken at jabber.earth.li
Sent from my [insert device/mail client here]

        Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2011 08:11:25 -0700
        From: Martin Holmes <mholmes at uvic.ca>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.797 our basic furniture?
        In-Reply-To: <20110318070948.5BCCF11A8D0 at woodward.joyent.us>

Here's my list:

	rsync (can't live without it)
	XML editor (oXygen)
	Java JRE
	browsers with developer plugins (Firefox, Chrome)
	email client (Thunderbird -- it's cross-platform)
	svn client
	IDEs for all the programming languages I'm using
		(Qt Creator, Geany, NetBeans)
	Decent text editor
	Hex editor
	Vector graphics app (Inkscape)
	Raster graphics app (GIMP)
	Office suite (LibreOffice)
	Desktop publishing tool (Scribus)
	Password manager (LastPass)
	Media player (VLC)
	Audio editor (Audacity)
	Video munging tools (ffmpeg, HandBrake)


Martin Holmes
University of Victoria Humanities Computing and Media Centre
(mholmes at uvic.ca)

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