Presentation on theme: "1 Untertitel Autor Datum Die Leipziger Schule. 2 Saussure Einleitung zum Cours lobt Junggrammatiker The winter season of 06-07 marks the hundreth anniversary."— Presentation transcript:
2 Saussure Einleitung zum Cours lobt Junggrammatiker The winter season of 06-07 marks the hundreth anniversary of the first of three courses that Saussure gave, which became the foundation of the influential Cours de linguistique general published by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye. Why might one want to signal this to group involved in ongoing conversations about the scope and nature of humanities computing? By pausing to contemplate beginnings, to invite contemplation of a perhaps incisive analogy. The first chapter of the Cours de Linguistique generale offers a quick survey of developments in the language arts. It dwells upon comparative philology: Mais cette ecole, qui a eu le merite incontestable d'ouvrir un champ nouveau et fecond, n'est pas parvenue a constituer la veritable science linguistique. Elle ne s'est jamais preoccupee de degager la nature de son objet d'etude. Or, sans cette operation elementaire, une science est incapable de se faire une methode. I ask myself if the only route to method is through science and a preoccupation with the object of study. Does humanities computing offer a method without objects or rather without objects whose nature has been completed elucidated? Just what is a computable object? The introduction to the Cours de Linguistique generale goes on to describe the principle error of comparative philology as an exclusive focus on comparative rather than on historical relations and to praise the neogrammarians (Junggrammatiker): Grace a eux, on ne vit plus dans la langue un organisme qui se developpe par lui-meme, mais un produit de l'esprit collectif des groups linguistiques. Still work remains... Cependant, si grands que soient les services rendus par cette ecole, on ne peut pas dire qu'ell ait fait la lumiere sur l'ensembel de la question, et aujourd'hui encore les problemes fondamentaux de la linguistique general attendent une solution. And so I return to the computable object. It is compatible to what type of probing? Is it like an organism? Is it a component in a body of evidence? What probabilies does it expose? What niche disclose? These biological terms -- organism, body, niche -- appeal to me because they capture the sociological and cognitive dimensions of digitalwork. They also appeal because of their resonance with emergence and gradual decay. Somewhat like the comparative philogists reconstructing indo-european roots, in a rather poetic grasping, in a most unscientific manner, I am striving to understand a neologism: computible. So much of humanities computing is a training in discerning what is passable, what it is possible to pass through a given machine-process. Its object of study may be compatible with computability without being computable by a given machine-process -- like so many creatures of the wild. Humanities computing involves fieldwork: observing "computing in the wild" (a phrase I came across with gleeful relish in reading Wendell Piez's contributions to the TEI discussion list). This type of fieldwork is the art or participant-observer domain of humanities computing. An other area of activity is the lab. Site of controlled experiment. Its object of study crosses lab and field. Its object of study is mobile. It has the quality of locomotion. What is exposed to computability is not the object in and of itself but one of its phases observed in a site-specific location open to a given machine-process. Back in April 2004, Adrien Miles and Jeremy Yuille composed a creative computing manifesto in which one of the key statements that has inspired this recreation via Saussure is that computer literacy is synonymous with network literacy. I am venturing the suggestion that network literacy deals with "computible" objects. Such objects are indeed computable they are also as often remarked fungible. And yet I am totally unhappy with this ible/able play I have initiated if it doesn't keep in mind that there is a material substratum. The digital technologies allow us to play with faithful copies. Replication is at the heart of the matter. And an ethics in its structure. Yuille and Miles, in the context of their manifesto and from the perspective of teaching students who work with the soft artifacts of the creative industries, place _praxis_ between _knowledge transfer_ and _learning_. Under the rubric of praxis is the following single sentence: "Breaking, gleaning and assembling is a theory of praxis for these literacies." Sure if you are dealing with the breakible copies, the gleanible copies and the assemblible copies -- morphs on the computible. Morphiblia -- the object of study of humanities computing. :) -- Francois Lachance, Scholir-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance
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