4.1030 Qs: Planning Humanities Computing (2/72)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 14 Feb 91 20:19:01 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1030. Thursday, 14 Feb 1991.

(1) Date: 13 Feb 91 21:43:38 EST (57 lines)
From: James O'Donnell <JODONNEL@PENNSAS>
Subject: advice requested

(2) Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 06:20:42 CST (15 lines)
From: "Eric Johnson DSU, Madison, SD 57042" <ERIC@SDNET>
Subject: Computing advice

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 13 Feb 91 21:43:38 EST
From: James O'Donnell <JODONNEL@PENNSAS>
Subject: advice requested

It is probably the fate of a majority of HUMANISTs that a certain amount of
time on this list translates into a certain likelihood of being drafted into
committee service when humanities committee planning is in the wind. My number
came up, and I could use some advice.

It was suggested to our committee by one administrator with a lot of
experience that we organize our report under the headings Research and
Instruction. A savvy committee member suggested adding Communications as a
third heading. I am uncomfortable and want to try to say here why.

Computers are like faculty: they can be used for research, they can be used
for instruction, and they can be used for playing golf. Most are used for some
combination. Curiously enough, the most versatile computers (by which I mean
the ones that flit back and forth between research and instructional functions
the most often with the most ease) will tend to be the humblest work stations
for the least computerish faculty: now a syllabus, now a footnote, now a
handout for class, now another footnote, etc. And I think it fair to say that
the largest number of users in a humanities faculty will be clustered around
this humble middle.

But the biggest and flashiest projects, on the other hand, will define
themselves as Research (find out once and for all whether Shakespeare wrote
Plato's Dialogues) or Instruction (teach them to translate from Gujarati to
Old Irish in one semester). So if you do a graph of number of users, the bell
will form with the center right on the line separating research from
instruction; but if you go by dollars or intensitivity-of-computerishness, you
get an inverse parabola, with the lowest point at the center, and the arms
reaching off to infinity in the directions of research and instruction.

So if we write our report the way suggested, we run the risk of dividing the
indivisible and emphasizing the expensive. Oh, yes, and the research-only and
instruction-only projects tend to involve smaller numbers of faculty -- more
dollars per investigator. (I assume there are holes all over this argument:
Please pick them.)

So I think what I will suggest instead is that we organize functionally: (1)
Nodes, (2) Connections, (3) Structures. Where Nodes deals with the
establishment of individual working units, be they student labs, faculty
office computers, or local research and instruction projects on a large scale;
where Connections focuses on support systems designed to help everybody, links
for information transfer of various kinds (e-mail, library access, admin.
information, etc.), and Structures deals with the way to organize the
administration of computing so as best to deal both with the isolated,
individual case and with providing the common systems and connections that
will link those individuals.

But there must have been hundreds of these reports written elsewhere by now.
Who's got a better scheme? (I should just say that this is very much a policy
report we envision, contributing to a five-year plan for arts and sciences
computing: nitty-gritty, like how many boxes, which rooms they go in, etc., we
do *not* have to deal with. Our concern is more to make sure that the
structures and large policies are in place so that the people who have to make
those decisions will all be on the same page.)

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------22----
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 06:20:42 CST
From: "Eric Johnson DSU, Madison, SD 57042" <ERIC@SDNET>
Subject: Computing advice

A colleague at an American university is seeking advice from
HUMANISTs about what shoud be included in a plan for academic computing.
He would appreciate any kind of advice, but in particular he would
like information (and perhaps war stories) about providing information
and hands-on demos and help for faculty.

Please reply directly to Don Sundheim

Our thanks in advance.