19.321 contemplation and computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2005 06:59:53 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 321.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 06 Oct 2005 06:56:47 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: visions of a noisy, distracted world

We all know from the history of the 20th Century and of this one
already that civilization can go down the pan and that particular
human cultures can take a serious turn for the worse. We know from
our own universities that institutions of higher education can lose
track of their reason for being and so lower themselves. But I think
we should be cautious whenever we think we see a decline and fall in
ordinary life, caused for example by mobile (cell) phones, computer
games &c &c. I think we should ask, how much of this decline is in
the eye (and, in general, body) of the beholder? How much is due to a
hardening of the mind as well as stiffening of the joints? If (God
forbid) *we* cannot have fun any more, has having fun ceased to be possible?

Let us suppose, as so many of our predecessors (including Plato) have
similarly concluded, that Today's Youth is going to hell in a
handbasket while talking on its mobile phone. Is not our job as
teachers to reach this youth where it lives and open up the
possibilities for a better life by addressing its way of being?

And what does this have to do with humanities computing? Much to do,
I would think. Especially given the methodological nature of the subject.

For a strong and broad argument, see the essay by the great
anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, "'Sentimental Pessimism' and
Ethnographic Experience", in Lorraine Daston, ed., Biographies of
Scientific Objects (University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 158-202.
An exciting book, by the way. Good to read as, in this hemisphere,
winter is icumen in.


Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
-2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Thu Oct 06 2005 - 02:06:17 EDT

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