21.281 days and disappearances

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2007 11:33:40 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 281.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 09 Oct 2007 10:44:32 +0100
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Days and Disappearances

On or about the disappearing day...

Dear Willard,

Canadian Thanksgiving this year falls on October 8. Curious, I
checked Wikipedia for pointers on events in
history. Consulting the "October 8" entry I found the following:


* 1582 - Due to the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day
does not exist in this year in Italy,
Poland, Portugal and Spain.


I found myself drifting towards reflecting upon the difference
between "day" as a part of a date and "day"
as an experiential unit independent of the the date. It perhaps a
mark of being a frequent reader of
Humanist that I thought an elucidation of the distinction would be a
perfect prize exam question ...

With thoughts of humanities computing in mind I continued with my
meditations on time by turning to some
lines from the poem "The Drunken Clock" by Gwendolyn MacEwen. [In my
universe everything connects.]


Clocks count forward with craze, but<lb/>
bells count backwards in sober grace.

<cit>Volume One: The Early Years. ed. by Margaret Atwood and Barry


By analogy we can appreciate how the of evolution of computing power
has spawned clock-driven projects that
attempt to do more in less time and how distribution of such
computing power has placed bells ready to
chime in many more places. It is perhaps a truism that rhythm and
synchronization, hallmarks of multimedia
p,r,o,d,u,c,t,i,o,n, depend upon careful alignments and
segmentations. A day is to a bell as a date is to a
clock? Or vice versa?

Next, I turned from poetry to scholarship. I have been plunged of
late in Anthony Grafton's wonderful book
on Joseph Scaliger. I found myself thinking that Scaliger's "turn to
chronology" amounts to a moment in the
prehistory of humanities computing. Historical chronology is where
the disciplines of astronomy and
critical editing intersected and where evidence and model building
operated closely. And so Grafton gives
us a picture of

The craze...
Scaliger's reconstruction also required him to ignore or distort
other texts directly relevant to his

The grace...
Still, whatever Scaliger's errors, he had assembled the data and
raised the problems on which legions of
learned chronologers would gnash their teeth and exercise their wits
for centuries to come.

A Scaliger prize for future students, prize devoted to time in computing?

And so as the day disappears and the bell tolls, you find me thankful
for your kind moderation of such an
excellent seminar and leaving you to ponder further the clocks and
bells of our mind machines.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance

Received on Tue Oct 09 2007 - 06:49:39 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Tue Oct 09 2007 - 06:49:39 EDT