[Humanist] 25.389 bipolar intelligence

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Oct 16 11:57:05 CEST 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 389.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 16 Oct 2011 10:50:05 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: bipolar intelligence

I've argued casually for some time that the difference between what 
computing can do (at any one moment) and what we can do isn't to be 
resolved but to be held in mind simultaneously so that one can play off 
against the other. Unlike computer science the push in the digital 
humanities is to strive for this difference, not to strive for its 
elimination, i.e. for the successful automation of the research problem 
in hand. 

Thanks to the Finnish ecologist Yrjö Haila, "Socioecologies", 
Ecography 22.4 (1999), I can now refer to a serious argument to back up 
my notion of bipolar intelligence: Peter Elbow's "The uses of binary 
thinking", JAC 13.1 (1993), 
www.jacweb.org/Archived_volumes/Text_articles/V13_I1_Elbow.htm. Elbow 
draws, as he says, on a tradition that "sees value in accepting, putting 
up with, indeed seeking the nonresolution of the two terms: not feeling 
that the opposites must be somehow reconciled, not feeling that the itch 
must be scratched." Read it tonight (or this afternoon)!

He makes the intellectual argument, so I won't try that here. But it's 
worth noting that without seeing the computational and the humanistic as 
opposites useful to each other as such *and* holding both simultaneously 
in mind, the digital humanities withers away into service, either 
delivering computational work meekly to the humanities (and so the 
techie subaltern in the academic department, or the software shop 
serving several departments) or humanistic data slavishly served up 
to computing (and so the technical poacher hungry for interesting problems).


Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's 
College London; Professor (fractional), University of Western Sydney; 
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org); Editor, 
Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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