[Humanist] 28.876 pull of the intellectual catwalk

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Apr 10 07:29:39 CEST 2015


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 876.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Jan Rybicki" <jkrybicki at gmail.com>                        (9)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 28.875 pull of the intellectual catwalk?

  [2]   From:    lachance at chass.utoronto.ca                                (18)
        Subject: Re:  28.875 pull of the intellectual catwalk?

  [3]   From:    Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>         (63)
        Subject: Re:  28.875 pull of the intellectual catwalk?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2015 08:12:38 +0200
        From: "Jan Rybicki" <jkrybicki at gmail.com>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 28.875 pull of the intellectual catwalk?
        In-Reply-To: <20150409055208.64C5CDE6 at digitalhumanities.org>


The question's good. To answer it quickly before running off to work:
because we're humanists.
Have a nice day,
Jan

On Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 3:52 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 875.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>         Date: Thu, 09 Apr 2015 06:41:47 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: fashions and trends
>
>
> Reading chronologically through articles relevant to the introduction
> and spread of computing in literary and historical studies in the latter
> half of the 20th Century, I am struck by the power of fashion. A
> technique, approach or theory (call it what you will) is introduced then
> quickly becomes the only game in town. Or, to put the matter somewhat
> differently, an intriguing, even compelling "as if" quickly morphs into
> an "is". Critically intelligent scholars are swept up as
> easily as supposedly less intelligent people are by a change in
> clothing, music or whatever. Evidence in particular cases suggests that
> the "next new thing" was there for years or decades, as it were, waiting
> for its moment. Quantification in history, before it took off
> after WWII, is an example. Lawrence Stone's crucial article, "The
> revival of narrative: Reflections on a new old history", Past and
> Present 85 (1979): 3-24, gives a fine account of that.
>
> I ask naively, why are we so easily swept away when we know, or should
> know, that whatever it is will soon be old hat? Why not many games in
> town? Surely we can see that the fever for Big Data, like the outbreak
> of "scientific history" Stone chronicles, is a mixed bag, not The Truth?
> Is all this not a tale whose moral is to stay detached, or as much as
> one can, from the intellectual catwalk?
>
> Better questions most welcome!
>
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
> Group, University of Western Sydney


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2015 15:25:15 -0400 (EDT)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Re:  28.875 pull of the intellectual catwalk?
        In-Reply-To: <20150409055208.64C5CDE6 at digitalhumanities.org>


Willard,

You place the intellectual catwalk under the aegis of

>         Subject: fashions and trends

and speculate about these as drivers of discourse.

You conclude with a question:

> Is all this not a tale whose moral is to stay detached, or as much as
> one can, from the intellectual catwalk?

Counter-intuitively and resisting a fight-or-flee response, could we not
imagine scholars participating in the ebb and flow of trends not as
victims of fashion and accessories (to quote the Rough Trade song
http://lyrics.wikia.com/Rough_Trade:Fashion_Victim) but as intrepid
voguers?

Would the better question be one about the manufacture of attention and
focus and group process? Communication about scholarship is not only about
the pull of the hip but also about the push of the perenial.

Francois Lachance
Scholar-at-large
http://berneval.blogspot.com/



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2015 07:59:46 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  28.875 pull of the intellectual catwalk?
        In-Reply-To: <20150409055208.64C5CDE6 at digitalhumanities.org>


HI Willard,

I agree that digital humanists are driven by the latest digital fashion,
but how else can it be? We are too small to set digital trends and as Mr
Richard Stallman keeps telling us: "The computer industry is the only
industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion." What I find
actually more interesting when dredging through old archives of the
digital humanities is the way that the same ideas keep resurfacing with
a frequency of around 5-7 years. This was particularly noticeable when I
researched the overlapping hierarchies problem. The same solutions would
be reinvented with a different acronym exactly like the cycle of fashion
(size of busts, tightness of pants). The reason seems to be that there
are only so many key problems and only so many possible solutions. Once
we have forgotten about one proposal it is time to dust it off and
reinvent it. I'm thinking about things like the many attempts to reduce
TEI tag sets to improve interoperability. But I guess I'm no better than
my peers in that I also find echoes of my own work in the archives,
which is a bit embarrassing, but also funny.

Desmond Schmidt
University of Queensland






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