Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 357. Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne Hosted by DH-Cologne www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org Date: 2021-04-30 07:22:05+00:00 From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers@cantab.net> Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.348: where from here? Dear Willard, As well as asking "where from here?" for digital humanities, it may be worth asking where not from here? The arrival of your question coincided with my (re)reading of Jacob Cohen, 1990. Things I Have Learned (So Far), American Psychologist, vol 45, no 12, pp 1304-1312. A piece I push onto PhD students I teach. They come from many different disciplines, arts and humanities included. And it coincided with a conversation I'm having with an old friend, which has prompted me to consult (again) Jacques Heyman, 1996. Elements of the Theory of Structures, Cambridge University Press. Both made me think many disciplines of inquiry today have been about where digital humanities is today, perhaps, and that these other disciplines have since past the twenty years on you ask us to think about. Where, we might ask, did these other digitalised disciplines of inquiry move on to? Cohen writes, in a section called Simpler is Better (p 1305) "Computers are a blessing, but another of the things I have learned is that they are not an unmixed blessing. Forty years ago, before computers (B.C., that is), for my doctoral dissertation, I did three factor analyses on the 11 subtests of the Wechsler-Bellevue, with samples of 100 cases each of psychoneurotic, schizophrenic, and brain-damaged patients. Working with a pad and pencil, 10-to-the-inch graph paper, a table of products of two-digit numbers, and a Friden electromechanical desk calculator that did square roots "automatically," the whole process took the better part of a year. Nowadays, on a desktop computer, the job is done virtually in microseconds (or at least lickety-split). But another important difference between then and now is that the sheer laboriousness of the task assured that throughout the entire process I was in intimate contact with the data and their analysis. There was no chance that there were funny things about my data or intermediate results that I didn't know about, things that could vitiate my conclusions. "I know that I sound my age, but don't get me wrong -- I love computers and revel in the ease with which data analysis is accomplished with a good interactive statistics package like SYSTAT and SYGRAPH (Wilkinson,1990). I am, however, appalled by the fact that some publishers of statistics packages successfully hawk their wares with the pitch that it isn't necessary to understand statistics to use them. But the same package that makes it possible for an ignoramus to do a factor analysis with a pull-down menu and the click of a mouse also can greatly facilitate with awesome speed and efficiency the performance of simple and informative analyses." Heyman writes, in the Preface (p xi) "The theory of structures is one of the oldest branches of engineering. ... "As might be expected from an ancient discipline, the theory of structures is an especially simple branch of solid mechanics. Only three equations can be written; ... "These equations were, effectively, known by 1826 (Navier), or more certainly by 1864 (Barre de Saint-Venant). Of course, although the equations are essentially simple, individual pieces of mathematics may become difficult. By the end of the nineteenth century, indeed, many problems had been formulated completely, but the equations were so complex that they could not usually be solved in closed form, and numerical computation was impossibly heavy. This situation gave an exhilarating spur in the twentieth century to the development of highly ingenious approximate methods of solution, and also to a fundamental reappraisal of the whole basis of the theory of structures. These developments have now been almost completely arrested by the advent of the electronic computer; the Victorian equations, insoluble a century ago, can now be made to yield answers. That the equations may not be a good reflexion of reality, so that their solutions do not actually give the required information, is only slowly being realized." I defended my thesis proposal before Prof Hyman, then head of the Structures Division in the Engineering Department at Cambridge, and my supervisor, R Ken Livesley, a pioneer of what he called matrix methods for structural analysis, so as not to call it computational methods for structural analysis. I proposed to work on computational techniques to support the design of certain kinds of radio telescope structures. Prof Hyman's question to me was, how would I know this support would actually be useful for designing real radio telescope structures? I had to learn how to make sure it was, and subsequently used the computational techniques I worked on to design the main reflector support structure of what become the James Clerk Maxwell submillimeter wave telescope built on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Prof Hayman, like Jacob Cohen, wasn't against computers. He was worried by what he saw as a tendency for their use to take us away from caring about, and knowing about, still important things. But, as many here know, doing things with computers also gives us first sight of, and then a means to gain insight into, things we would not otherwise see and be able to know about. Ken Livesley, for example, while working with Turing in Manchester to put matrix structural analysis calculations onto the Mark 1 computer, was the first to see that the stiffness matrix for a real structure was banded, not just symmetric, and that this meant further significant savings of computation and memory could be made by taking account of this. In my PhD work I discovered symmetries in the computations of the mathematics I developed, and again used these to significantly reduce the amount of needed computation, thus making it a usable way to support real designing, not just analysis. These computational insights, as we might call them, and others like them, have given us an understanding of structures and their design that the equations of structure theory could not do. Where digital humanities might choose to steer towards over the next twenty years, therefore, would be a place where using computers does not open ignorance sustaining distances between scholars and their subjects of inquiry, and where using computers gives them insights into these subjects that they wouldn't otherwise gain. It'll be like having our cake and eating it. Best regards, Tim > On 28 Apr 2021, at 07:36, Humanist <humanist@dhhumanist.org> wrote: > > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 348. > Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne > Hosted by DH-Cologne > www.dhhumanist.org > Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org > > > > > Date: 2021-04-28 05:33:46+00:00 > From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@mccarty.org.uk> > Subject: envisioning the future > > Dear colleagues, > > I'd like to know where such well-informed people as ourselves would like > digital humanities (as an academic discipline) to be in, say, 20 years' > time. So I invite as many as care to reply to my constant question, > "where from here?" > > Yours, > WM > -- > Willard McCarty, > Professor emeritus, King's College London; > Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews; Humanist > www.mccarty.org.uk _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: humanist@dhhumanist.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php