Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 269. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2018-12-15 07:28:15+00:00 From: Willard McCarty
Subject: in your genes/DNA? A current habit of thought I find curious is the attribution of biological determinism in a language not that far from programming. This is the notion that we are determined by a core program in our genetic material, or alternatively that a society or social entity is similarly predetermined. There is, the thought goes, nothing to be done about a behaviour or characteristic because it is already unalterably programmed. One curiosity is that the whole point of a programmable device is that what it does (within the constraints imposed by its architecture) isn't hardwired but can be programmed and reprogrammed indefinitely. It's like a complex board-game, such as chess or go, within whose limits is freedom. What gets to me is the passiveness this expresses -- the passiveness with which many (including our students) take to computing, that is, as users rather than makers. Here, it seems to me, is a very strong argument for teaching programming as a humanistic project. Students flood in nowadays to university programmes in 'digital humanities', and in some cases at least are taught only what I would consider the epiphenomena of computing, the effects predetermined by apps and applications. Meanwhile they are being unwittingly shaped, as we all are to some degree, by the cognitive structure of the stored-program computer. How can they understand this, and so be properly equipped, if they have not played the game rather than merely be played by it? The tools are here, as one very wise computational linguist used to say. Should we not be developing in our students and colleagues a critical awareness of how these tools shape how we think and reason? Comments? Yours, WM -- Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org) _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
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