Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 53.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Sun, 27 May 2001 07:02:50 +0100
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Francois Lachance)
I was briefly in Quebec City for part of the COCH/COSH annual meeting. I
think you would have enjoyed the proceedings which were held in a building
which is used primarily for continuing education.
I can report on some of the presentations. Other subscribers may be able
to fill you in from their own perspective both on what I report here and
on what I fail to report.
Bill Winder sparked some thinking into questions of expertise. He provided
a very provoking paradox with all sorts of wonderful prickly ethical
spines. He invited us to take the case of the researcher/teacher who
builds an automatic grammar corrector by using data collected from student
samples which at first blush looks like putting the pedagoge out of a job.
Stefan Sinclair offered an elegant use case of the KIS (keep it simple)
principle in action and a wonderful exemplification of refurbishing a
system that had evolved in a pre-Web distribution environment. He gave a
quick overview of SATORBASE which is suite of tools for searching and
updating a database of literary topoi. After this cogent presentation, I
would very much like to hear Stefan speak about Perl and learning curves
as well as the pros and cons of storing data in plain text, XML or a
relational database. There is very much the basis of a three-part
"memoire" in his experience which could weave together the
autobiographical (how a research acquires and stretches a skill set), the
topical (how a specific project carries and transcends its histories) and
the technical (the trade off between performance and maintenace).
Martine Cardin presented an overview of an ethnological project involving
some 800 hours of taped interviews. The archival aspect was most
intriguing. The classificatory scheme was developed according to a
taxonomy of cultural practices versus one centred on objects. The project
exemplifies the fruitful intersection of discourse analysis and archive
Ron Tetrault presented a tour through the products of an electronic text
centre where each of the products is a marker of the centre's history of
developing institutional support. It was priceless to see his expression
when he reinvoked in mimetic fashion his own reactions to business plan
that had been developed by business school students for the centre. Even
more priceless to see the appreciative audience reaction to this evocation
of nitty-gritty of administration. Maybe some future session could focus
on a fuller telling of this tale.
Maite Taboada reminded us that business applications of computational
linguistics do provide intellectual stimulation. Her analysis of the genre
structure of bulletin board messages certainly leads one to wonder about
the rhetoric of invective and that of argumentation. It would be
interesting to explore further what constitutes the markers of structure
that can be recognized by a machine.
Greg Polly offered another take at the verbal/visual distinction by
attempting to apply reader reception theory (Wolfgang Iser) to video games
and interactive narrative. The discussion after this presentation was
lively. Ian Lancashire reminded the assembled that recent research in
physiology suggests that the same brain centres which deal with oral/aural
language forms also deal with sign language.
The visual/verbal as modes of the same cognitive competencies was also a
theme in the presentation prepared by John Bonnet which drew upon the
historical economist Harold Innis. A pedagogical exercise in which
students construct 3D models from archival photographs and fire insurance
maps is designed to lead them to an appreciation of the documentary
evidence. It is a fine example of the re-emphasis on the trivium of
construction-collaboration-communication which is shaping many online
And there were the conversations "en coulisse". It struck me that the
visual/verbal parti pris (very much rooted in an undertheorizing of the
image/word traditions engrained in some of the institutional arrangements
of our establishments of higher learning) is bleeding over into
pre-judgements about how best to mount a humanities computing pedagogical
program: multi-media versus the verbal document. In the end there appears
to be a wish for diversity. But I suspect the expression of any wish that
is a mere concession and is not grounded in a fuller understanding of
cultural artefacts and the sensory modalities of their apprehension. On
that front (yes, it deserves a trope of engagement), very glad to learn
that Johanna Drucker (author of _The Visible Word_) is a keynote speaker
at ACH/ACCL in New York City. I hope to hear reports.
Program and abstracts available by consulting
-- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance 20th : Machine Age :: 21st : Era of Reparation
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