Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2008 08:30:01 +0100 From: "Humanist Discussion Group \(by way of Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty-AT-mccarty.org.uk>\)" <willard-AT-LISTS.VILLAGE.VIRGINIA.EDU> Subject: 22.098 falsification of process & its publication To: <humanist-AT-Princeton.EDU> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 98. Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/cch/research/publications/humanist.html www.princeton.edu/humanist/ Submit to: humanist-AT-princeton.edu Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2008 08:27:24 +0100 From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty-AT-mccarty.org.uk> Subject: falsification of process & its publication In their wonderful, indeed astonishing book, The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity: A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science (Princeton, 2004), Robert K Merton and Elinor Barber argue that academic writing tends to falsify retrospectively the actual processes by which results were obtained. Their focus is on the normal form of scientific writing, but their argument is apt for the digital humanities as well. Most of what they have to say on this topic is in a subsection of the book's Afterword entitled, "The Standard Scientific Article and Obliterated Scientific Serendipities (or SSA and OSS, as These Are Bound to Be Abbreviated in Our Age of Acronyms)", pp. 269-284. Those who know Merton's writings, e.g. from On the Shoulders of Giants, will recognize the serious playfulness and have some idea of how well the argument is conducted. A few years ago, after more years of fighting against the tendency of students to tell the story of what happened in their research rather than to construct an argument, I realised that they were partially right: the story of what happens when you work with computers *does* matter. The computer, I realised, puts the researcher in something like an experimental situation, and looking back on the history of experimental science I could see that keeping a careful record of what one thinks is happening often proves useful if not crucial. So I looked around for descriptions of how to write a scientific laboratory report, combined it with admonitions on how to write papers in the humanities and produced a little document entitled, "How to write an essay-report", which then went through revisions with the help of my colleagues here and is now distributed to our students. It has also informed our own marking criteria. (See http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/depts/cch/ug/courses/ for the document itself.) My question here is, has anyone else thought of these matters, esp about how involvement with computing is changing how we write? In a discussion at DH2008, just concluded (you should have been there), Marilyn Deegan, editor of Literary and Linguistic Computing, noted the importance of publishing conference papers especially for those who are deeply involved in humanities computing but do not have the opportunity or inclination to turn aside from the actual building of objects to devote significant time to writing. Often all they have the opportunity to do is to put together a conference paper or two in a year. That may develop into something more substantial, but lack of time and the pace of work may prevent further development. At the same time it is all too easy in some venues to toss off a conference paper, so perhaps a barrier to journal publication is no bad thing. Are we, perhaps, looking at the need for a clearer distinction between different publication streams? Comments? Yours, WM Willard McCarty | Professor of Humanities Computing | Centre for Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/. Et sic in infinitum (Fludd 1617, p. 26).
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