[Humanist] 25.34 in denial

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri May 20 00:25:08 CEST 2011

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 34.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 18 May 2011 10:01:37 -0300
        From: Matt Huculak <huculak at dal.ca>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.31 in denial
        In-Reply-To: <20110518060337.21524145B53 at woodward.joyent.us>

I think we are forgetting an important part of the human/tool relationship in this discussion (and I apologize if I missed a thread in which this is discussed): in practical terms, we tend to become _emotionally_ involved with our tools so that they no longer represent some "thing", rather they become "our thing" and extensions of our imaginations. It's a form of pathetic fallacy of tool-use. This is important because we actually become attached and involved with our computers and computing systems (I am a mac person, and I ridiculously feel pity for Windows users, for example...though a bit insecure around Unix and Linux administrators). Apple has built an empire making people forget that they are using tools. Their products produce the illusion of being extensions of the human body and imagination. This is very intoxicating to the user.

I bring this up because the biggest problem in the Humanities right now is that not enough humanists know how to code, and thus we do not have a proper sample of what humanists actually _want_ to do when it comes to computing. I've been really impressed with the Scholars' Lab "Spatial Humanities" site which seeks to instruct users on how to create their own maps  (http://spatial.scholarslab.org/). That is, the tool gets out of the way and individual scholars are allowed to let their imagination play with a technology which promises to reveal new and interesting ways of reading our texts. 

I think our theoretical discussions might change when we observe how humanists actually start using actually existing technology as extensions of their own selves and imaginations (just look at the excitement surround GIS right now--I guarantee scholarship will be turned to the "spatial" for the next few years simply because it has become easy to engage in this type of mapping activity). For the teaching/researching public, "is it a tool" is not a question that is meaningful; "what can I do with it" and "how can I make it mine" is.

Dr. J. Matthew Huculak
Academic Postdoctoral Fellow, Dalhousie University, Editing Modernism in Canada
Webmaster & Consulting Trustee to the Executive Board, Modernist Studies Association


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