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Humanist Archives: Feb. 9, 2019, 7:05 a.m. Humanist 32.436 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 436.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                       www.dhhumanist.org
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org


    [1]    From: Willard McCarty 
           Subject: the debate and what it tells and might tell us (36)

    [2]    From: Desmond Schmidt 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.435: the McGann-Renear debate (108)

    [3]    From: Wendell Piez 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate (58)

    [4]    From: Gabriel Egan 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.435: the McGann-Renear debate (35)


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2019-02-08 22:02:39+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: the debate and what it tells and might tell us

I was at that debate, in Charlottesville, Virginia, in June 1999, at the
ACH/ALLC International Humanities Computing Conference
(http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/ach-allc.99/). The programme is still
online, and the position-statements intact
(http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/ach-allc.99/proceedings/hockey-renear2.html).

Now and again the debate is still proving fruitful. Even re-litigations,
properly composted, can sometimes fertilise. But there's still a rather
serious problem here, more than seemingly endless argument, namely our 
chronic lack of an historical sense. Some of us are exhuming arguments 
that are decades old without realising they're long in the ground. Once 
upon a time I thought that I could blame the Web's great deluge for 
obliterating nearly everyone's memory of what was going on for the ca 
35 years prior to its impact, to say nothing of the two decades between 
von Neumann's architectural sketch and Joe Raben's founding of Computers 
and the Humanities in 1966. But the Web's not the real problem, as the 
current debate indicates. The real problem is the thoughtless and 
thought-depriving hype of continual progress -- even when we think we're 
'progressing' toward something we'd rather not think about.

The first sentence in the Introduction to Thomas Kuhn's Structure of
Scientific Revolutions (1962) is worth posting on the wall above one's
desk (or on the desktop): "History, if viewed as a repository for more
than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in
the image of science by which we are now possessed."

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)



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2019-02-08 20:00:34+00:00
        From: Desmond Schmidt 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.435: the McGann-Renear debate

Martin,

thank you for raising three clear points.

1. treating text as if it was a hierarchy makes for ease of processing.
This was what led to the OHCO thesis in the first place. It is true
that markup languages are based on grammars, which can be processed by
well-defined and efficient algorithms. But grammars do not have a
monopoly on computing. There is more than one way to skin a cat and to
exclude all other models of text on the basis that they are not
definable by grammars, but may be processable by well-defined and
efficient algorithms, is effectively limiting what we can achieve.

2. Humanists must follow business.
I agree, but have you looked at the usage by business of XML lately?
XML was invented by IBM and Microsoft, through the organ of the W3C,
to serve the needs of web services. Document processing was very much
a sideline. XML has all but disappeared from web services in the past
few years to be replaced by JSON, and interest in XML-based document
formats like Docbook have plummeted in popularity. Nobody is talking
on technical fora about XML any more. The W3C have been divesting
themselves of their dependence on XML for some years now (HTML5,
XInclude->Html Imports, RDFa, XSL-FO->CSS3 Paged Media). There does
not appear to be any interest by business in maintaining XML into the
future, and it is doubtful that it can survive. If digital humanists
follow business they will eventually abandon XML.

3. It is hard to draw a line between semantic and rendering features in markup.
Well, HTML does exactly that. It has very little semantic markup on
its own (you can add it but that is a different story). It is focused
on rendering. XML is not.

Desmond Schmidt
eResearch
Queensland University of Technology

On 2/8/19, Humanist  wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 435.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                    Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>
[...]
>
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: 2019-02-07 15:57:11+00:00
>         From: Martin Mueller 
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.428: the McGann-Renear debate
>
> Various quotations come to mind in following this threat of relitigating an
> old
> debate: "Hard cases make bad law" or "The squirming facts exceed the
> squamous
> mind" (from Wallace Stevens' Connoisseurs of Chaos).  But there is also "as
> if":
> if you treat a text as if it were an ordered hierarchy of content objects
> it
> will often enough work well enough to be useful, especially if user
> communities
> can agree on pretending in the same ways so that you can make use of my
> pretences and I of yours without another layer of translation.
>
> The TEI rules were first expressed in SGML, a technology developed by IBM.
> They
> now live in XML, another technology that mainly serves the interests of
> business.  In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Theseus curtly dismisses the offer
> of
> an entertainment with  the title "The thrice three Muses mourning for the
> death
> /Of Learning, late deceased in beggary" .  Humanists have always been
> parasites
> at the tables of the rich and powerful, making  do with the scraps from
> their
> table. Writing re-entered the Greek world  around 800 BCE as the adaptation
> of a
> Semitic alphabet--almost certainly in the context of trade. In some ways
> the
> humanists have had the last laugh:  the rare surviving fragments of Early
> Greek
> writing include a hexametric line celebrating the Aphrodisiac powers of
> Nestor's
> cup. And the Iliad would not be the poem we still read had it not been for
> the
> business technology of writing.
>
> Some of the complaints about the straitjacket of TEI are not unlike the
> complaints Plato raised about writing. We're still doing it and are
> probably
> better off for it. I share Hugh's pragmatic attitude towards the TEI. He is
> right in saying that you cannot always draw a clear line between meaning
> and
> rendering. There is a strip of increasingly wet sand on any beach, but it
> hardly
> erases the distinction between wet and dry.
>
>
> -----
> Martin Mueller
> Professor emeritus of English and Classics
> Northwestern University
>

--
Dr Desmond Schmidt
Mobile: 0481915868 Work: +61-7-31384036



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2019-02-08 14:55:45+00:00
        From: Wendell Piez 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate

Dear Willard,

On Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 3:04 AM Patrick Sahle via Humanist
 wrote:
> >
> >          Date: 2019-01-27 23:32:11+00:00
> >          From: Desmond Schmidt 
> >          Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.388: humour, objects and the McGann-
> > Renear debate
> >
> > Perhaps Alan Renear believed texts were "fundamentally hierarchical"
> > 20 years ago, but I doubt that he still does. Texts are not
> > hierarchical -- markup languages are.
>
> And perhaps Alan Renear believed that "renditional features are no
> proper locations for textual meaning" 20 years ago, but I doubt that he
> still does. Text is renditional - only character encoding is not.[1]

Allen, if he is reading or if he is not, exercises great forebearance
in not constantly correcting us (in so many many ways) about what he
said all these years ago. I suspect (I haven't asked) that he is too
smart for that and knows that such forbearance is necessary for those
provocations to continue bearing fruit.

Keep in mind this is the author (with Karen Wickett) of "Documents
Cannot Be Edited" and "There Are No Documents".

Renear, Allen H., and Karen M. Wickett. “Documents Cannot Be Edited.”
Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2009, Montréal, Canada,
August 11 - 14, 2009. In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup
Conference 2009. Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 3
(2009). https://doi.org/10.4242/BalisageVol3.Renear01.

Renear, Allen H., and Karen M. Wickett. “There are No Documents.”
Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2010, Montréal, Canada,
August 3 - 6, 2010. In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup Conference
2010. Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 5 (2010).
https://doi.org/10.4242/BalisageVol5.Renear01.

Somewhere, Socrates is smiling.

Me? It's a funny thing. These days, I think there is text, and there
are texts. But every text is also a representation of a text --
perhaps or sometimes (there's the debate) a text no one can see
perfectly or agree about -- while every representation of a text, is
also a text.

Cheers, Wendell



--
Wendell Piez | wendell -dot- piez -at- nist -dot- gov |
wendellpiez.com (inactive)
pellucidliterature.org | github.com/wendellpiez |
gitlab.coko.foundation/wendell  - pausepress.org



--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2019-02-08 08:22:38+00:00
        From: Gabriel Egan 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.435: the McGann-Renear debate

Dear HUMANISTs

I'll keep this brief.

Herbert Wender is surprised at "The rapidity
with which Gabriel Egan came back with the term
'error' after reading Matthew Bell's review . . .".
I did not diagnose error myself as I'm not
qualified to judge the text in question. I
pointed out that the editors whose work was
being reviewed diagnosed error, since they
move the word "ROSENKNOSPEN" from the position
it has in their copy text to somewhere else.
Thus this cannot be used as a clear example
of play texts doing the thing I claimed they
don't do. (And in any case I confined my
assertion to early modern drama.)

Herbert Wender also asks if I cannot see that
"These hierarchies are *in the mind* of
someone, not on the page or on the stage."
I do see that. I'm arguing that they are
in the mind of the creator of the text
and that for this reason they are more
important than hierarchies that are only
in the minds of the readers of a text.

Regards

Gabriel Egan







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