[Humanist] 32.18 Humanist at 31 & questions

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue May 15 08:12:06 CEST 2018


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 18.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>                    (52)
        Subject: Re:  32.16 Humanist at 31 & the state of the digital
                humanities

  [2]   From:    lachance at chass.utoronto.ca                                (10)
        Subject: Re:  32.16 Humanist at 31 & the state of the digital
                humanities

  [3]   From:    Henry Schaffer <hes at ncsu.edu>                             (63)
        Subject: Re:  32.16 Humanist at 31 & the state of the digital
                humanities


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 14 May 2018 12:53:54 +0200
        From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>
        Subject: Re:  32.16 Humanist at 31 & the state of the digital humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20180514084507.02B681446 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>


Dear Paolo and Willard,

As a puzzled (mostly) designer, engineer, and scientist, may I
humbly ask why 'scientific' is needed in each of your
respective [fundamental] questions?

And, Willard, what is the "European sense" of
'scientifically'?  Do other parts of the world have other
senses of this term?

Questions that incline me to think a fundamental question here
is more like, are the Digital Humanities trying to be
Sciences?

If so, are they trying to do this by being computational,
instead of being done on paper?

Best regards,

Tim

> On 14 May 2018, at 10:45, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 16.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Sun, 13 May 2018 07:51:25 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: advantage or difference?
> 
> 
> In Humanist 32.13 Paolo Monella asks,
> 
>> I often wonder how long funding would keep pouring on our mill's
>> wheel if projects should become increasingly arid in terms of DH 
>> methodological innovation. Which boils down -- for me -- to the 
>> fundamental question: what's the scientific advantage of doing X 
>> computationally, as opposed to doing it analogically on paper?
> 
> Let me suggest a different, I think better question: what's the 
> scientific DIFFERENCE of doing X computationally as opposed to doing it 
> on paper? Of course we're unlikely to do anything that is both hard work 
> and often expensive, esp if it a funding agency has to be persuaded of 
> its cogency, if we do not see and cannot articulate an advantage. But 
> scientifically (in the European sense) isn't it the difference that 
> opens minds?
> 
> Yours,
> WM
> 
> -- 
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of
> Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western
> Sydney University; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 14 May 2018 09:02:48 -0400 (EDT)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Re:  32.16 Humanist at 31 & the state of the digital humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20180514084507.02B681446 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>

Willard

Variation. Repeatability

> Let me suggest a different, I think better question: what's the
> scientific DIFFERENCE of doing X computationally as opposed to doing it
> on paper?

Repeatability. Variation.

-- 
Francois Lachance
Scholar-at-large
http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 14 May 2018 09:17:09 -0400
        From: Henry Schaffer <hes at ncsu.edu>
        Subject: Re:  32.16 Humanist at 31 & the state of the digital humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20180514084507.02B681446 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>


I want to dig a bit deeper into this discussion:

On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 4:45 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 16.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>         Date: Sun, 13 May 2018 07:51:25 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: advantage or difference?
>
>
> In Humanist 32.13 Paolo Monella asks,
>
> > I often wonder how long funding would keep pouring on our mill's
> > wheel if projects should become increasingly arid in terms of DH
> > methodological innovation. Which boils down -- for me -- to the
> > fundamental question: what's the scientific advantage of doing X
> > computationally, as opposed to doing it analogically on paper?
>
> Let me suggest a different, I think better question: what's the
> scientific DIFFERENCE of doing X computationally as opposed to doing it
> on paper? Of course we're unlikely to do anything that is both hard work
> and often expensive, esp if it a funding agency has to be persuaded of
> its cogency, if we do not see and cannot articulate an advantage. But
> scientifically (in the European sense) isn't it the difference that
> opens minds?
 
The scientific "advantage" or the "DIFFERENCE" can be interpreted in (at
least) two different ways. I'll start with the basic idea that the computer
can't/doesn't do anything that we can't do by hand (analogically) - it just
does it faster. That IMHO is the root of Willard's mention of "hard work"
(i.e. how long it will take) and "expensive" (i.e.of the cost of labor.)

The computer lets us do work, including DH work, that otherwise wouldn't be
feasible. So that's a "methodological innovation" which can be useful in
terms of results, and it's the results which provide the
advantage/justification.

Making a concordance without a computer (which is the historical way of
doing it) is expensive - so expensive that it was done only for extremely
treasured documents. Today, with computers, it's so cheap that it's done
without concern, or simply done dynamically (search) without even trying to
save the cost of repetition. Is this a DH example? I'll claim that it is,
and that it would have been so labeled 60 years ago if the DH phrase had
been invented then.

Another example is more recent and described in "Use of positive and
negative words in scientific PubMed abstracts between 1974 and 2014:
retrospective analysis" https://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h6467 Studying
the use of language in science fits into the humanities, and this study
would not have been feasible without the use of computer to search the
possibly millions of abstracts.

--henry schaffer


> > Yours,
> WM
>
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of
> Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western
> Sydney University; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)





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