Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 478.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
 From: Tony Meadow <firstname.lastname@example.org> (22)
Subject: Re: 13.0474 conventions? formal methods/scientific
 From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com> (45)
Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 22:28:38 +0000
From: Tony Meadow <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 13.0474 conventions? formal methods/scientific practice?
>For my thesis I'm trying to collect as many citations as possible that relate
>to convention, norm, tradition, patterns and rules and where these apply to
>language and social behaviour. The main idea behind what I do is that people
>follow conventions in language even when the form or genre of the language is
>very recent (web - hypertext).
>So far I have quite a nice collection ranging from Saussure to Gideon Toury,
>Vygotsky to Lawrence Lessig, Josh Cohen to Itamar Even-Zohar, etc. (I know
>some ideas are considered -- historically -- greater than others - but I do
>want a good range of fields, interests and opinions). I would consider ANY
>citation, even remotely related, and will post a summary back to the list
>after putting them all together.
You might want to look into ethnomethodology, a school of sociology that
was current some years ago when I was an undergraduate. As I recall, they
were concerned with the social construction of everyday life, with the
learned but unspoken assumptions about the structure of everyday life and
so on. The one name that I remember (perhaps not correctly) is Samson
Garfinkel who was then at UCLA.
Bear River Associates, Inc., 505 14th Street, Suite 600, Oakland, CA 94612
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Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 22:29:03 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In Humanist 13.474, Richard Giordano asks in response to the announcement
of the Colloquium at King's College London in 13.470,
>Is there a difference between a formal method and a structured method?
>Are the use of structured methods more appropriate in this regard?
>Why is scientific investigation privileged? Are methods of design and
>investigation in technology as appropriate as science?
Since I don't know what a "structured method" is, I cannot even take a run
at the first two questions, but perhaps others would like to. I'd need the
idea of "investigation in technology" explained to me, if this is different
from applied science or the research end of engineering, and would need to
know "appropriate for what?" But I'd like to comment on the privileging of
scientific investigation, since this very much bears on the Colloquium and
at least some of the thinking behind it.
One of our speakers, Harry Collins, has worked hard and effectively at
doing just the opposite, i.e. to quote from his very fine book Changing
Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice (Chicago, 1992),
its purpose is "to bring science to the same epistemological level as other
knowledge making activities" (p. 185) by showing the social processes
involved. The phrase "social construction" is enough to start a fight these
days in some circles and so is perilous to use, but at least generically
that's what Collins is involved with in his studies of scientific practice,
along with several others. I recommend Ian Hacking's The Social
Construction of What? (Harvard, 1999) for guidance through the trenches of
the culture wars. His book Representing and Intervening (Cambridge, 1983)
furnishes a powerful philosophical argument that focuses on experiment, and
so helps to make the sciences much more readily accessible as imaginative,
creative disciplines. Forgive me for thumping once more Peter Galison's
Image and Logic for the focus on "all that grubby, unplatonic equipment",
from which he pulls a thrilling intellectual history which tells not an
insignificant part of our story.
If drawing attention to the sciences is to privilege them, then mea culpa.
One of the motivations behind the Colloquium is to explore the possibility
that we might have friends among the philosophers, historians and
sociologists of science, that there just might be some useful analytic
tools we could adapt to our purposes. I still think it's an interesting
question why we don't have a philosophy or sociology or history of the
humanities in anything like the same sense. Perhaps now that research in
the humanities is externalised via the computer, there is an intellectual
object to be studied, and so we will be studied. I sure hope so.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
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