[Humanist] 24.803 our basic furniture

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Mar 21 07:49:43 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 803.
         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>            (3)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.802 our basic furniture

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (40)
        Subject: my furniture

        Date: Sun, 20 Mar 2011 14:40:00 +0000
        From: "Postles, David A. (Dr.)" <pot at leicester.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.802 our basic furniture
        In-Reply-To: <20110320072208.92DB211BF55 at woodward.joyent.us>

Parameters, then: concordance analysis:


I couldn't perform my work without this cli (command-line itnerface).

        Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2011 06:45:11 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: my furniture
        In-Reply-To: <20110320072208.92DB211BF55 at woodward.joyent.us>

When I asked the question about basic functions of software I was in 
part wondering what the question should be. This question began with the 
problem of figuring out what a person who shifted operating systems 
would need to look for in the new one -- in a few cases, say, the Mac 
version of X, but in many, what the best software would be for doing Y. 
Thinking further about the matter, it's the functions that matter. But 
of course new systems (hardware and/or software) sometimes modify or 
create functions.

The Day of Digital Humanities comes to the question from another angle 
but with some of the same results. It asks, what do you do all day?

For me the interesting answer arising out of my own attempt to make a 
list (with which I will not bore you) concerns note-taking. This 
function seems unsatisfied by any one application or set of 
applications, and it is occasionally upset and reconfigured by the 
introduction of new hardware, such as the iPad and its kind. I would 
hazard a guess that not only do we not yet have it right (though John 
Bradley's Pliny is a very fine piece of work) but also that by nature 
(at least my nature) this function changes form depending on the project 
-- its size, kind, phase, subject, materials. My guess is that we 
haven't even begun to understand what is involved here, that note-taking 
is so close to the processes of reading, encoding in memory, 
assimilating, remembering, reasoning and composing that our processes of 
design don't come anywhere close to being right for the job. Clearly, as 
the iPad has shown me, sitting at a computer, at a desk, is fatal to 
some kinds of note-taking. Even laptops are too demanding of special 
circumstances to work for all. Even iPads. Sometimes the only thing that 
will do is a piece of paper tucked into a book. Yes, paper and book. 
(Let's not be technologically dogmatic!)

So, a fascinating set of problems, no doubt requiring several 
disciplinary points of view, including the cognitive sciences.



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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