3.1309 Research Computing (History); Surrogate Motherhood (95)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 23 Apr 90 18:12:37 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1309. Monday, 23 Apr 1990.

(1) Date: Fri, 20 Apr 90 14:28:48 PDT (20 lines)
From: cbf@faulhaber.Berkeley.Edu (Charles Faulhaber)
Subject: Computers in History

(2) Date: Mon, 23 Apr 90 10:33:04 BST (54 lines)
From: Donald Spaeth <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: 3.1299, Research Computing (History)

(3) Date: Sat, 21 Apr 90 11:53:01 PDT (18 lines)
Subject: surrogate motherhood

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 90 14:28:48 PDT
From: cbf@faulhaber.Berkeley.Edu (Charles Faulhaber)
Subject: Computers in History

The question about the decline of cliometrics went under my nose and was
zapped with my trusty "delete" key but evidently continued to percolate
through my subconscious.

Those of us in the humanities have known for a long time that there is a
lot more to humanities computing than compiling statistics. Once you
start to look at texts as potential historical sources, then it becomes
obvious that the potential for the use of electronic texts in
non-quantitative approaches to history has scarcely been tapped.

As more and more texts, both literary and non-literary, become available
in machine- readable form, I think that we can expect to see a
corresponding increase in historical studies making use of them in the
same fashion that literary scholars do.

Charles Faulhaber
UC Berkeley
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------66----
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 90 10:33:04 BST
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339-8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: 3.1299, Research Computing (History)

This subject arose from a query Bob Kraft passed on from a colleague
of his. Although Bob suggested that we pass comments back to him,
I cannot resist airing it more generally.

The query revealed an intesting difference between historical computing
in the U.S. and Europe, which I have noticed before (not least in my
own graduate school training at Brown). In Europe, historical computing
is heavily oriented towards database work, which may be quite textual;
in the U.S. the predominant orientation appears still to be towards
quantitative methods. The big areas of interest are record linkage,
relational databases and textual databases. I am not surprised that U.S.
scholars are moving away from quantification (those few that adopted
the techniques, anyway), just that it has taken them so long.

Think about the way that most historians work with sources. They READ
and they link information about particular people, places and events
from discrete and scattered sources, the sort of tasks which databases
and textbases are good at but SPSS is not. Literary and biblical
scholars have been using computers to study textual material for
decades; why shouldn't historians? Literature-based applications
may be particularly appropriate for those historians who are becoming
increasingly interested in the history of language, in the gap between
rhetoric and reality and the extent to which rhetoric may reshape
reality into its own image, in mentalite'. For a discipline which
places considerable weight on words and their meaning, tools which
help us to understand hidden levels of meaning are essential.

This is not to say that text-based applications are less empirical. In
both quantitative and textual work, it is the computer which does the
sweating and the person who does the intrepretation. The computer may,
however, reveal awkward information which the interpreter cannot ignore.

The divide between US and European computing practices is intriguing.
(I would be interested in hearing if others feel that the divide I've
sketched out doesn't exist.) Perhaps it derives from the tendency
of North Americans to place history in the social sciences; the
British, at least, tend to put history in the humanities and economic
and social history in the social sciences. But this is a coarse
generalisation, and there must be many exceptions. One is
the freshman humanities course which both Willard and I took at
Reed College, which taught history, art history, philosophy and
literature all together, in a course that ran from Homer to
Shakespeare. But even Reed places history in the division of
social sciences.

Don Spaeth
CTI Centre for History and Computing
University of Glasgow
gkha13 @ cms.glasgow.ac.uk
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------23----
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 90 11:53:01 PDT
Subject: surrogate motherhood

Beginning reading on surrogate motherhood seems to indicate that it is
an issue only in Great Britain, Australia and the U.S. Is this an
accident of the source selection or (help me international humanists)
a real pecularity of these cultures? Is surrogate motherhood in the
press of other countries?

Also, in discussing the various sub-parts of fatherhood and motherhood
(in Shannon's Surrogate Motherhood, but he is citing someone else), i.e.,
genetic father, genetic mother, carrying or birth mother and social
father or mother, it seems that English in its American version, has no
words to talk about the role of the father for the 9 months gestation.
Certainly this is understandable biologically, but do other languages
have this gap? Or does time period fall under "social father" (can't
in any practical way in surrogate motherhood as practiced in US)?