20.552 scholarly works of art

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2007 06:19:49 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 552.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 04 Apr 2007 06:18:14 +0100
         From: Wendell Piez <wapiez_at_mulberrytech.com>
         Subject: Re: 20.546 scholarly works of art

Dear Willard,

At 01:30 AM 3/30/2007, you wrote:
>Neven Jovanovic, in Humanist 20.541, helpfully points out that the
>product of my imagined allusion-machine would be a "work of art",
>asks what value this might have for scholarship and answers that were
>it to generate a map of allusions one could follow, then it would
>have readers, and so become something for scholars to work with. The
>algorithm of this allusion machine would have to be *very* cleverly
>contrived, but let's put that aside for the moment. What about the
>broader question of what computing has to do in mediation between the
>humanities and the creative arts -- or perhaps better, how it
>undermines that supra-disciplinary distinction?

Buried in this question is the assumption that computing is a
suitable medium for humanistic scholarship. I believe it is, just as
I find that the only publishing today that is not electronic
publishing is out on the artistic fringe, inasmuch as hardly a
publishing house does not use a computer for its text wrangling. But
the question must still be brought to the fore. Having done so, one
then might ask why, if a word processor or set of hypertext pages or
series of graphs of word distribution is a suitable medium for
scholarship, a painting is not? Or another case, closer to the
boundaries: a series of photographs.

Media whose proper application is the transparent representation of
foregoing realities, vs media whose proper application is the
creation of such realities?

>Let's for the moment ask this question of reading in particular. If
>reading is a creative act disciplined by the text being read, is the
>function of literary criticism to stick to the disciplining
>constraints of the currently accepted text? If a suitably clever
>algorithm generates a welter of possible-world readings, does the
>disciplining basis of criticism then shift to include the algorithm
>(thus algorithmic criticism)? At what point, if ever, do we accept
>the algorithm and start working on what it generates?

How can we avoid it, especially as it already happens behind the
scenes in any case?

Or maybe we can come on a meaningful distinction between an algorithm
and an analytic or synthetic methodology (with or without the imps in
the machine).

To me it appears the question here is not "when do we accept it" but
"what do we accept it to be?" Is it more interesting and illuminating
for its transparency or opacity?

>On numerous occasions I've been told, in effect, "Behold!", only to
>watch dancing displays show cool stuff -- mostly bad works of art
>from an artist's perspective, I'd guess, but I've also seen very
>moving ones. Do we say, ok, fine, but still not scholarship unless,
>by becoming an analytic instrument, it demonstrates a critical
>function? But then wouldn't the artist say that we can of course use
>it as we wish, but if that's all it does it is bad art?

Much art is based on bad scholarship, but it doesn't make it any less
artistic. Because scholarship tries to do something different, or
presumes to -- at least, until the Critic becomes Artist -- we
suppose scholarship has something more and better than itself to answer to.


Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez_at_mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc. http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207 Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD 20850 Fax: 301/315-8285
    Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML
Received on Wed Apr 04 2007 - 01:31:03 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Wed Apr 04 2007 - 01:31:10 EDT