Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 532. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: email@example.com Date: 2019-03-08 09:52:55+00:00 From: Joris van Zundert
Subject: The illusion of 'progress' and transfer of knowledge Dear Willard, Something has been bothering me ever since Michael Sperberg-McQueen first questioned the value and validity of hares. (https://dhhumanist.org/volume/32/173/ ) You were quick to identify part of what was bugging me: "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." (https://dhhumanist.org/volume/32/436/ ) I wholeheartedly agree with Domenico Fiormonte: "I've been following this and the previous McGann et al thread and I feel like this was a gigantic *déjà vu*... People I've been knowing for a long time, and for whom I've the greatest respect and affection, were rehearsing the same ideas and arguments I've been listening to for... may be thirty years?" (https://dhhumanist.org/volume/32/510/ ) And it is good to see that Jan Christoph Meister points to Dino's 2002 brilliant but much neglected article: "And there's more to this approach than merely being able to handle nested / overlapping / discontinuous structures (which imho is really a problem of the past, as is the Renear-McGann debate which, as far as I'm concerned, Buzzetti 2002 "Digital Representation and the Text Model", NewLiterary History, Vol. 33, No. 1 had already pretty much superseded). (https://dhhumanist.org/volume/32/520/ ) For all that matters Dino Buzzetti's argument might have ended the debate already in 2003 so we would have moved on to more interesting challenges. But it didn't. Domenico points out some detrimental mechanisms that may have caused the persistence of hierarchical perspectives on text. You blame the hype of continual progress. I think you are too easily discarding the influence of technical hype (XML was, oh boy). It is all of these things of course. The deeply inherent social fabrication of who's anyone in our community, the technological fads, and the institutional hypes. I am not sure whether either the hierarchical perspective or the multidimensional understanding of text signifies any progress at all. I have no use for hierarchies or XML, but so far the multidimensional approach has not produced much of anything either. I'll advocate the latter because it at least made me think about text instead of structure. But in general we seem not to be able to transcend a debate that looks suspiciously like a boring format war to me. However, all that really looks like an aside to me. The major worry remains and no one seems really to have addressed it. Why are we (as a community? as individuals?) so excruciatingly terrible at transferring the knowledge of the field's past? And why are we so bad at skilling scholars to choose a technology, data structure, or algorithm based on reasoning its applicability for purpose instead of community based or individual dogma? Wasn't ours supposed to be a historically informed and critical field of investigation? All best --Joris -- Drs. Joris J. van Zundert Researcher & Developer in Humanities Computing Dept. of Literary Studies Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences firstname.lastname@example.org @brandaen +31624461051 https://jorisvanzundert.net/ https://www.huygens.knaw.nl/vanzundert/?lang=en visiting address Oudezijds Achterburgwal 185 1012 DK Amsterdam The Netherlands postal address P.O. Box 10855 1001 EW Amsterdam The Netherlands -- Jack Sparrow: I thought you were supposed to keep to the code. Mr. Gibbs: We figured they were more actual guidelines. _______________________________________________ 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
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