Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Oct. 14, 2022, 5:12 a.m. Humanist 36.212 - modelling

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 212.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-10-13 13:45:32+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.209: on modelling as a 'shadow discipline'

Does "modeling" have a different meaning in the sciences than in the
humanities? In the sciences one studies an area, tries to represent it, and
its behavior, in equations and then continues to view the differences
between what the model shows or predicts and what is observed in nature or
in the lab. Divergence between the two then leads to changes in the model,
and the cycle continues.

One example is weather modeling, especially of events such as hurricanes,
and the use of the models to predict the progress of the hurricane.

The models are central to the discipline. Not all researchers in the
discipline necessarily use models, but certainly the use of models is not
considered to be outside the discipline. The skills to create a model or to
present the model in a computer display are not the same as those all
researchers use in the discipline (e.g. the computer programming), but
that's why teams include a variety of skills. (E.g., an evolutionary
geneticist probably doesn't have the skills to build a DNA sequencer, but
using one doesn't create a transformative shadow discipline.)

So, I'm left wondering - what are examples of what is described in that
book? (Yes, I'm too lazy to go look for myself!)


On Thu, Oct 13, 2022 at 12:29 AM Humanist <> wrote:

>               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 209.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                       Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: 2022-10-12 16:05:09+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         Subject: on modelling
> "Modeling creates a kind of shadow discipline for any academic
> specialty. Researchers make use of methods and forms internal to a field
> but do so by means of a set of skills distinct from those that
> practitioners usually consider central to their discipline. Rarely a
> subject in themselves, models are a means by which to investigate other
> subjects. By virtue of their extradisciplinary nature, they can create a
> fresh perspective on a field of study, complete with framing elements,
> foreground, background, and so on, even a position for the observer,
> which lends intentionality to the questions being asked of any
> particular model. The process can stimulate new insights on a subject
> distinct from other methods that can create conceptual distance. The
> transformative potential of models might well reside in their being
> simultaneously analogous to the phenomenon being investigated and
> foreign to the discipline in question."
> Martin Brückner and Sandy Isenstadt, "Introduction" to Modelwork: The
> Material Culture of Making and Knowing, ed. Brückner, Isenstadt and
> Sarah Wasserman (University of Minnesota Press, 2021), p. xiii.
> This alone should pull you to the book--which is reviewed by Jonah
> Lynch, "Same and Different: How Models Contribute to Knowing. A review
> of Modelwork", Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (27/3/22).
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

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