3.504 Humanist (109)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Wed, 27 Sep 89 17:29:49 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 504. Wednesday, 27 Sep 1989.

(1) Date: Wed, 27 Sep 89 10:02:08 EDT (68 lines)
From: Ken Steele <KSTEELE@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Purposes of Humanist

(2) Date: 27 September 1989 (21 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: objection

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 89 10:02:08 EDT
From: Ken Steele <KSTEELE@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Purposes of Humanist

Donald Spaeth's enthusiastically pro-technical argument for the
purposes of Humanist requires, I think, an equally emphatic rebuttal,
if supported only by my own limited eloquence and experience.

I do NOT subscribe to Humanist to find answers to technical
computer problems; computer dealers and the University of Toronto
Computing Services are generally a better resource. I cannot
believe that the majority of Humanists subscribed in order to learn
about the installation of Macintosh fonts or a three-and-a-half-inch
drive. This sort of information is available with full colour
illustrations on every newsstand, in a mountain of computing
magazines for almost every specialty. (Granted, scholars requiring
Old English fonts, or scanners for Renaissance secretarial hand, will
have unique needs which can best be addressed here, but surely this
qualification does not apply to diskette drives or lithium batteries!)

I find Humanist both most interesting and most academically
relevant when discussions focus on our primary disciplines, rather
than the hardware we use in them. Humanist connects specialists in
many fields, and allows thoughtful discussion of philosophical and
political issues, instantaneous announcements and reports, and an
extremely powerful global "Notes & Queries," in which we have
obtained immediate answers about obscure quotations, biblical
dinosaurs, and dislocated hearts, to name only a few. It is
inevitably necessary to limit the public discussion of any given
subject, but Humanist should NEVER consider limiting the range of
such discussions!

I admit, I find technical inquiries easier to answer than
academic ones, probably for the same reasons I often find myself
reading _PC Computing_ rather than _Shakespeare Quarterly_. But
I think this tendency to focus on hardware illuminates another
current subject of contention: Ph.D. theses (and faculty publications,
for that matter) take longer when the focus shifts from
"HUMANITIES computing" to "humanities COMPUTING."

I, for one, would like to see more electronic discussion of
academic issues in general, politics, history, philosophy, literature --
and hopefully I can muster the confidence to participate in them,
too. Lists such as ENGLISH and LITERARY are strangely silent --
is e-mail ill-suited for such discussion, or are the subscribers to
these lists too few?

Perhaps I'm misinterpreting the essential purpose of Humanist,
or the priorities of Humanists. Doubtless I am overstating my
feelings on the matter: I confess that I have read through most of
Humanist's technical discussions with at least as much interest as I
read through the endless "Uncertainty" discussions. I am very
impressed with Humanist in its current form, and with Willard's
laborious work as moderator -- I am not advocating change, I am
objecting to it.

Somehow, I cannot help but feel that technical issues are
peripheral, transitory, eternally obsolescent, like the computer
technology on which they are based. An electronic academic forum,
it seems to me, fulfills its best destiny when used as an electronic
medium for ACADEMIC discussion, rather than an electronic medium
for ELECTRONIC discussion. I suspect that no Humanist would
disagree with me; I hope that I have misunderstood Donald Spaeth's
comments. Hopefully I've just been wasting my "e-breath."

Ken Steele
University of Toronto
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 27 September 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: objection

Although I appreciate Mr. Steele's appreciation of my work on Humanist,
I must object to the term "laborious", indeed to all the allegations
that I am suffering under some intolerable burden. This is simply not
so. My survey, taken informally at The Dynamic Text Conference, revealed
that most Humanists have an altogether inflated notion of how much work
I actually do. May I suggest without offense that Humanist is like a
small infant -- requiring regular attention, not hard work, and repaying
the minor tasks manyfold? Perhaps one day, like many mothers I know and
have known, I'll want to get out of the house, but right now I'm
enjoying my maternity leave.

So, please, no more talk of burdens. If this were onerous, I'd quit.

Willard McCarty