[Humanist] 27.967 humanities

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Apr 14 07:25:43 CEST 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 967.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 13 Apr 2014 10:11:31 -0500
        From: "Robert A. Amsler" <amsler at cs.utexas.edu>
        Subject: Re:  27.966 humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20140413075352.C11076363 at digitalhumanities.org>

There is always a choice between working on things that are seen as
"useful" vs. "interesting". In the sciences it's seen as the difference
between "applied" and "basic" research. It obviously affects the
humanities as well.

What is most interesting (oops, I revealed the group I'm from) is that it
isn't clear which category actually yields the most significant advances
since the unexpected always happens no matter what path one pursues.

The pursuit of 'useful' results can be a dead end. The pursuit of
'interesting' work can result in significant breakthroughs.

My judgment would be that a society should invest in funding both kinds of
work and when the society's arguments for securing funds turn too far
toward only one of these goals there is the danger that the 'most' useful
or 'most' interesting' goal might not be the one that is going to lead to
the most significant impact on society.

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