Nerbonne: Data Deluge

In June I blogged John Nerbonne’s plenary at the ACH (See Nerbonne Plenary.) He has put up the text of the talk on his web site, Papers (Preprint Versions) by John Nerbonne. See The Data Deluge. John makes a balanced, open and fair argument for starting with humanities questions and focusing on delivering results. He is open to the way the questions evolve when using computing, so his practice is not uninterested in new questions as long as they evolve from existing ones. The end of the essay reflects on the discipline of humanities computing and Willard McCarthy’s discussion of it. Where I differ is that I see an emerging set of questions around new media which we can also address and produce results. The “we” includes the arts – fields that have been transformed by computing differently. The results also differ when one is less of a science and more of an art – in fact there are few results in the form of answers – only interventions and exhibits. But, credible and responsive work whether you call it results or interventions, are still what keeps a field healthy and allows new questions to emerge. There is nothing worse than a field that just complains about being taken seriously without producing anything of interest outside its complaints.

ALLC/ACH 2004, Nerbonne Plenary

The last day of the ALLC_ACH-2004 in Gothenberg and there is too much to blog.
The Opening Plenary was by John Nerbonne on “The Data Deluge: Developments and Delights”. He argued that “The challenge of Humanities Computing is to futher Humanities scholarship by confronting lots of data scientifically.” He gave examples of questions in linguistics (dialectology) that his team had been able to “answer” through computing methods and large data sets.
I wonder if that approach from questions will work in other fields in the humanities.

An advantage of the focus on large data sets is the renewed engagement it enables with traditional humanities questions. We are even *now* answering older questions with new methods.
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Resources for the Humanities: Brown Conference

Online Resources for the Humanities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives was a conference that was hotsted by Brown University and organized by Massimo Riva. It was one of the better small conferences I have been to in a long time (so there will be a series of blog entries on the ideas that circulated.) As Dr. Riva put it:

We are in a process of transcribing the humanities. This involves both representing the traditional evidence of the humanities in digital form and the developing new questions and techniques which we can ask of digital evidence.

One special feature of the conference was that it brought together a number of people in Italy doing Humanities Computing with people in North America. For me it was a chance to see a breadth of activities from Italy and to talk about humanities computing in Italian.
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A Manifesto for the Humanities

The Chronicle: 2/13/2004: A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age is a short essay on the importance of the Humanities. It reminds me of the Martha Piper lecture, but comes from an American liberal arts perspective. At times it sounds like a rehash of Cardinal Newman on the liberal and servile arts.
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Is Humanism Dead?

What does it mean to say Humanism is dea?

Such a statement could be historical, in the sense that the Italian Renaissance movement called Humanism is over. See Humanism [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy].

More radically it could mean that the values of humanism are no longer shared. What would these values be?

– The return and admiration of the classics and classicism.
– A focus on human achievements and expression, especially those in a self-conscious tradition that goes back to the Greeks and Romans.
– Preference for practicies of dialogue and academic organizations over practices of science and professional organizations.
– Preference for interdisciplinarity or antidisciplinarity over specialization and professionalization.

Are these values no longer shared? Have we moved on?

If we have, it would call into question the relevance of Humanities Computing as that application of computing to humanistic disciplines. Could HC be an interested extension of a dead tradition?
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