16.207 residue

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Fri Sep 13 2002 - 11:07:23 EDT

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Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 207.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
<http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/>
<http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>

[1] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (21)
Subject: paths through residue

[2] From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> (64)
Subject: Re: 16.201 a for-the-first-time residue?

--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2002 07:51:09 -0700
From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
Subject: paths through residue

Willard,

In listing two consequences, you suggest imagining a finite space.

> unqualified; the second is that we pay close attention to the implications
> of calling something a "residue". If one imagines a finite "problem-space"
> (say, like a room), and one sees that one has taken care of 99% of the
> problems in that space, then one is likely to regard the remaining 1% as
> evidence that one has done really well. BUT (72-point bold) do we as
> researchers, as humanists, work like that? What is that residue for?

The residue, if I may boldly precipitate a pun, there is Cantor "dew"
about the place, droplets divided in droplets divided yet again. The
space may be finite but contain a rain of infinite particles. Or one can
think in terms of Peano curves. Would the work of the Humanist be that of
an explorer/proposer of paths?

```--
Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/ivt.htm
per Interactivity ad Virtuality via Textuality
--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2002 07:53:11 -0700
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
Subject: Re: 16.201 a for-the-first-time residue?
Hi Willard,
At 10:51 AM 9/10/2002, you wrote (in reference to remarks made by Michael
Sperberg-McQueen in his Extreme keynote):
>Let me suggest two pre-conditions to working out the importance of what MSM
>has said here (then I will go away). The first is that we hear and
>understand the strenuous objections of our extra-computational colleagues
>to that "for the first time" claim -- surely it must appear ridiculous if
>unqualified;
...well, surely, and yet. (No, stay!) Surely even (or surely, especially)
our extra-computational colleagues will concede that to remove statements
from their context, runs the risk of changing their meaning, or even
inevitably does so. Michael's remarks were made to a room of specialists
who, for the most part, are willing to share certain assumptions (at least
for the purposes of allowing him to present a "coherent" argument even in
the face of some known, but unstated caveats, which we are yet perfectly
willing to acknowledge and assert in other contexts). That is, this room of
specialists is able to provide, silently, any necessary qualifications. Not
being in the room, Willard -- or possibly, standing in the doorway as I
imagine you metaphorically to be -- you are alert to how differently a
given statement may sound outside of it.
Yet it is interesting here to note that the larger motive of Michael's
address appears to be to pay notice -- even while leaving it unsullied by
painful explication -- that which is not, and possibly may not be, stated
explicitly, but which we still recognize and respect. The mysteries may
keep those veils as are truly theirs.
>  the second is that we pay close attention to the implications
>of calling something a "residue". If one imagines a finite "problem-space"
>(say, like a room), and one sees that one has taken care of 99% of the
>problems in that space, then one is likely to regard the remaining 1% as
>evidence that one has done really well. BUT (72-point bold) do we as
>researchers, as humanists, work like that? What is that residue for?
We are always looking at our goblets, even be they full nearly to
overflowing, and seeing the gap between the froth and the rim. Especially
we humanists engaged in this computing business, who remain skeptical of
the machine (and rightly so) even while it remains stupidly, perfectly
obedient to our humanistic values and intentions, insofar as we've managed
to use the machine to express them.
But I believe it would be unfair to impute to Michael, who himself (with
colleagues in Bergen) is contributing a great deal to the ongoing
reconsideration of the "problem" of overlapping and multiple hierarchies,
the position that the 1% here is uninteresting or even negligible. (And
whence cometh the figure 1%? I might have said closer to 40%, or -- taking
the extreme position that we have often, so far, compromised our models,
albeit to good effect, to fit the Procrustean bed of our current tools --
maybe 70%. As if such numbers were meaningful at all apart from their
rhetorical tendencies.) Perhaps you mean to caution that the word "residue"
is ... misleading as to what we might really think of the 1%? even
undiplomatic? But I don't see why we can't have our cake and eat it too. We
*have* done well -- better than it seemed, in (say) 1995, we ever might.
And the 1%, or 40% or 70% ... is nonetheless of real interest. On which --
stay tuned. We may be at something of a resting station, looking over how
far we have come (isn't that one thing keynote addresses are for?). Yet the
climb is far from over.
Of course all of this is to agree with you.
Cheers,
Wendell
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