[Humanist] 30.781 hands on

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Feb 26 07:35:14 CET 2017

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 781.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2017 06:36:59 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: craftsmanship

Like Andrew in Humanist 30.776 I never looked back once wordprocessing
became available, which for me happened while I was writing my doctoral
dissertation, first via a 'dumb terminal', then a series of 'microcomputers'
(scare-quotes to mark antiquated terminology). I migrated from use of a
typewriter. But I had trained as a calligrapher and taught it for
years. Prior to that a friend and roommate taught me a fair bit of
carpentry, and before that my father. So I had -- and have -- a feeling for
craftsmanship, indeed love of it and some ability, though not enough to
allow me to give up my day-job.

But I never once thought that using a keyboard was any kind of betrayal.
Handwriting and typewriting happily cohabited in me until wordprocessing
sent typewriting on its way -- and good riddance (though I loved my Olympus
portable -- a fine machine). A keen appreciation for good handwriting,
typography, page-design and the book-arts has remained strong as ever.
Obsession for layout and other aspects of readability dogs my use of e-mail,
Humanist very much included.

So, my point at last. The question I've hinted at in the last couple of
e-mails on this topic is this: how do we (as digital humanists) best instil
a sense of craftsmanship in all relevant matters without falling victim to
nostalgia for a once happy Paradise defined by its innocence of
wordprocessing, smartwatches, iPhones & alii? (I have and delight in 
all of those -- to the degree they are well crafted :-)

My point about programming, that I feared it was "too much in the head", was
not to denigrate head-work, rather to question our ability to do it well
without that sense of craftsmanship best instilled, I'd think, through
physical work with one's hands. (Gardening is included!) My over-the-top
recommendation would be to require courses in calligraphy, book-binding and
design. Perhaps the human imagination is powerful enough to acquire that
sense through coding alone? The beauty and elegance of a fine mathematical
proof surely attest to something very much like craftsmanship. I once knew 
a Nobel chemist who was so much "in the head" that, it was said, he 
couldn't tie his own shoelaces. But he thought in terms of molecular 
objects, i.e. in physical terms. Is the real problem a false separation of 
mind and body?


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)

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