[Humanist] 28.529 a new computational humanities

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Dec 3 09:21:12 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 529.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Helena Barbas" <hebarbas at fcsh.unl.pt>                    (13)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 28.525 a new computational humanities

  [2]   From:    Andrew G Taylor <agt2 at rice.edu>                           (70)
        Subject: Re:  28.525 a new computational humanities

        Date: Tue, 02 Dec 2014 15:07:25 +0000
        From: "Helena Barbas" <hebarbas at fcsh.unl.pt>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 28.525 a new computational humanities
        In-Reply-To: <547D783A.4000407 at mccarty.org.uk>

Dearest Willard - let me contribute to the argument with a poem by 
Jorge-Luis Borges - del rigor de la Ciencia/ of exactitude in Science -  
best of best regards Helena Barbas

[On Exactitude in Science  

... In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.  

Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658

trans. Andrew Hurley, Penguin edn.]

Helena Barbas (PhD)
F.C.S.H - Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Av. de Berna, 26-C
1069-061 - Lisboa - Portugal

------ Original Message ------
From: "Willard McCarty" <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
To: "Online seminar for digital humanities" 
<humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>
Sent: 02/12/2014 08:28:42

Andrew Taylor's reply to my note on accurate representation as a goal 
gets right to what I was wondering about. I hear colleagues who work in 
visualisation talk about the problem of how photo-realism, say in a VR 
representation of an ancient building which survives only in fragments, 
can be dangerously misleading. What then is an accurate representation? 
The most obvious response, I suppose, is one that informs the viewer 
somehow of the difference between that which survives and that which is 
inferred, ideally representing degrees of certainty. But what if as the 
scholar with the questions you're interested not in the appearance of a 
site but some performance that happened in it? What if you want enough 
of an illusion to be able to imagine a play that happened in the 
virtually reconstructed theatre, or the sermon preached in the 
reconstructed space? I'd suppose that you do not want an *inaccurate* 
representation, but in the circumstance I am imagining, accuracy is just 
a stepping-stone.

I wonder further if this isn't quite close to the historian's tricky 
question of getting to "what actually happened" (von Ranke's famous 
phrase). Even if counterfactual history is your thing, I'd think you'd 
be doing it in order better to illumine what did (in some sense 
actually) happen. Historians are quite sensitive about counterfactual 
studies and about the degree to which history-writing is creative. At 
the same time an accurate, let us say complete, chronological account is 
not a history, only the beginning of one. I like to think of Aristotle's 
distinction between history (what actually happened) and poetry (the 
kind of thing that is always happening) as a range of possibilities. 
Where you are in that range depends on what you're after, or allowed to 
be after depending on the academic values of the time. How imaginative 
is work in digital humanities allowed to be?

If what you do is find, organize and maintain an archive for the 
historian to use, then I'd suppose your goals are different from the 
historian's. An archivist could be an historian, but his or her 
professional, institutional life would likely be different. If what you 
do is to edit texts, you produce a work of scholarship as accurately as 
possible, but 'accurate' in this instance also must be qualified. Would 
you count yourself, or be counted by others, as a literary critic? If 
you also did literary criticism, otherwise not, but editorial decisions 
are, I'd suppose, likely to be informed by literary concerns.

I think I'm meandering my way to two kinds of statements: (1) the map is 
not the territory; and (2) your work can be of great value to a group to 
which you don't belong but whose goals and methods you understand. And 
there's perhaps another: (3) each practice, discipline or field of 
activity needs autonomy just as each person does. As an archivist or 
textual editor what makes you especially valuable is your resistance to 
the historical or literary-critical fashions of the moment.



        Date: Tue, 02 Dec 2014 10:35:43 -0600
        From: Andrew G Taylor <agt2 at rice.edu>
        Subject: Re:  28.525 a new computational humanities
        In-Reply-To: <mailman.5.1417518002.3304.humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>

Hi Prof. McCarthy,

I love "The map is not the territory," line you mention, I ran into it 
in the essay /DONALD REMEMBERS VINTAGE SCI-FI: The Cortico-Thalamic 
Pause: Growing Up Sci-Fi /by Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan), who is not a 
professional scholar either.

        One of [Count Alfred Korzybski's] most quoted sentences is,
        /"*The map is not the territory*"/. In other words, don't
        confuse the word with the object, the description with the thing
        itself. People who want to sell you something intentionally take
        advantage of this confusion. For instance, political speeches,
        TV commercials and Fox News use language rife with "truthiness"
        instead of truth and containing "factoids", not facts.

That's way better than "The Medium is the Message," I'm not really a fan 
of McLuhan (maybe that's not a meaningful comparison).

Related to the subject:

Here's a final manifesto (published in 1878 three years before his 
death) by "Rev. R.W. Eyton, M.A. late Rector of Ryton."

I've taken it to heart, though I ran into it by chance during the course 
of work. It's a preface by Robert Eyton, a 19th-Century English history 
scholar who claims (hah!) not to "aspire to, he carefully avoids, the 
domains of historical philosophy or political science" but and is 
gathering "facts...for the use of some genuine and impartial Historian 
who may come hereafter."
Regardless of whether one agrees with his view, it is a great piece of 
   - Andrew Taylor

Eyton, Robert William, 1815-1881 
| https://archive.org/details/courthouseholdit00eyto

    Facts ; simple facts ; where they were accomplished ; when they
    were accomplished ; who accomplished them ; and what was
    said as to how they were accomplished at the time of their
    coming to pass ; these are the primary and most essential ele-
    ments of pure history.

    Estimates of causes and consequences, physical or moral ; of
    personal intellect, mind, or character; of individual feelings,
    motives, or principles ; of social forces or influences ; of national
    or party creeds, whether religious or political; these indeed all
    belong to real history, but they are not its primary elements :
    they are its superstructures, they are deductions, they are calcu-
    lations from, or upon, those elements. They subsist on facts,
    on facts analysed, facts pluralized, facts combined. Rightly
    conceived they form the philosophy of history, wrongly conceived
    they exhibit only the bigotry of prejudice or the folly of opinion.
    Broadly and honestly worked-out, such estimates will endure for
    all time as the credentials of the true Historian : garbled or
    narrowly dealt-with, they will obtain but an ephemeral currency.
    Posterity will regard them only as the badges of the essayist,
    the sophist, or the partisan.

    The following pages claim nothing more than to be the diligent
    and honest work of a mere Indicator, or Registrar, or compiler of
    facts. They are not intended to propagate, recommend, or even
    announce any form of political theory or metaphysical opinion as
    entertained by the compiler. In other words, he does not
    aspire to, he carefully avoids, the domains of historical philosophy
    and of political science ; he will never willingly enter upon
    any discussion of moral questions, or any debate as to personal
    qualities or conduct. He only affects to supply a broad basis of
    facts, references, dates, places, names, and documents, for the
    use of some genuine and impartial Historian who may come
    hereafter to review the reign and biography of Henry Fitz Em-
    press ; and who may prefer rather to take his stand of observation
    among the things and doings themselves, than to contemplate
    the twelfth century through the haze or halo of the nineteenth.

Andrew Taylor, MLS
Associate Curator, Visual Resources
Department of Art History, Rice University

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