3.749 support of humanities computing, cont. (55)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Wed, 15 Nov 89 20:59:19 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 749. Wednesday, 15 Nov 1989.

Date: 15 November 1989, 17:42:13 EST
From: Norman Zacour 923-9483 ZACOUR at UTOREPAS

Willard McCarty seems to have raised a REAL question (compared with many
of our recent storms-in-teacups). I judge, however, from the responses
that others do not have any real answers as yet - rather, one detects a
sad note of resignation on the part of those of our academic colleagues
tied up in the role of computer consultant with, at best, only a limited
hope of maintaining any pretense of scholarship. Are there
academic/computer projects out there in which they might engage
themselves - projects, say, that will enhance the quality of undergrad
instruction in this or that humanistic discipline - which might earn
solid academic recognition? I do not mean some convenient way of
cutting corners and costs, but a real improvement in the quality of

We might be approaching that in one department here, with the
construction of a hypercard project (at first, just a model) to deal in
depth with the English Revolution. It will call for a great deal of
scholarship on someone's part, and it is increasingly clear that the
department is going to have to recognize the fact and do something about
it. Come to think of it, the finished product will surely have not only
academic value, but commercial value as well. As such it would become
an item for academic circulation, to say nothing of being the subject of
copyright (and also, alas! the object of plagiarism, I suppose).

Another form of relief for the computer-user-supporter might also be
found in getting institutions to encourage and reward scholarly work in
his or her field, although from the responses it would appear that the
two activities, supporting computer-users on the one hand, doing one's
own scholarly thing on the other, are mutually exclusive. Is this
really true? Many of us teach and write. The accepted wisdom has been
that these are mutually supportive, but many of us have also found that
they can interfere seriously with one another in various, destructive
ways. Most of us either do one better than the other, or one instead of
the other, or neither. These three seem to be the major categories. I
suspect that, in the case of humanists who are acting as computer
consultants most of the time, there would still be some tension, even if
the University did get off its institutional backside and encourage,
indeed reward, scholarship in ways that we should like to see. I do
think, however, that academic computer consultants might themselves
begin to define some positive career objectives. It wasn't so long ago
that other academics, struggling for things like academic freedom,
tenure, etc. did just that. More recently librarians have begun to make
large strides in acquiring formal recognition as full-fledged members of
the academic community.