File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 194

Date:         Thu, 4 Sep 2008 21:17:21 +0100
From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty-AT-MCCARTY.ORG.UK>
Subject: 22.192 low-hanging and beyond reach
To: humanist-AT-Princeton.EDU

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 192.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to:

         Date: Thu, 04 Sep 2008 21:10:23 +0100
         From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
         Subject: Re: 22.190 low-hanging and beyond reach?

Hi, Willard--- no doubt you've noticed that Allen Renear likes the
low-hanging-fruit metaphor.  But the last time I heard him use it he had
a variant: "This fruit isn't low-hanging, it's just lying around on the

There's a passage I like about working intellectually with metaphors to
the point of breakdown from a letter of William James to Thomas Davidson
from 1898--- I think it's actually better if you don't know the passage
of James's that he's defending:

If you had the slightest spark of scientific
imagination you would see that the mother-sea is of a glutinous
consistency, and when she strains off portions of her being through
the dome of many-colored glass, they stick so tenaciously that she
must shake herself hard to get rid of them. Then, as there is no
action without reaction, the shake is felt by both members, and
remains registered in the mother-sea, like a "stub" in a check
book, preserving memory of the transaction. These stubs form the basis
of the immortal account, which we begin when the prismatic dome is
shattered. These matters, you see, are ultra simple, and would be
revealed to you if you had a more humble and teachable heart. Your
whole lot of idle and captious questions proceed so obviously from
intellectual pride, and are so empty of all true desire for
instruction that I will not pretend to reply to them at all. I am glad
that my poor little book took them out of you, though. You must feel
the better for having expressed them...


John Lavagnino <>

Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 190.
>        Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                      Submit to:
>          Date: Wed, 03 Sep 2008 22:25:10 +0100
>          From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
>          >
> Recently I was asked by a group of curious academics what was easy to do
> with computing in the humanities and what was not. It occurred to me to
> describe the situation with the metaphor of low-hanging fruit and that
> which is out of reach, requiring that the hungry person construct a
> ladder to reach. But I also realised that the tree is a rather strange
> one, i.e. that the metaphor breaks down when one considers the situation
> in time. Text once seemed the low-hanging fruit, conveniently already
> encoded to a significant degree, whereas images were too high to justify
> the effort. Now the situation seems almost reversed. Perhaps one needs
> to imagine several trees -- a text-tree, an image-tree etc. Perhaps
> Tantalus' situation is, in the end, our own. It seems clear to me that
> our hunger is boundless and that the trees are infinitely high.
> A shift of metaphor. In his beautiful book, A Different Universe:
> Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down (2005), Robert Laughlin quotes
> Richard Feynman (p. 127), who asks of physics, "What is the future of
> this adventure?" Feynman thinks that there must be an end to the search
> for and discovery of new laws. The situation, he points out, simply
> cannot continue; "it will become boring that there are so many levels
> one underneath the other". Thomas Kuhn's answer, which seems the right
> one to me, involves talking about a paradigm-shift. We've done that term
> to death in the popular press and, scandalously, in the academic one as
> well, but again it seems to me that the vision of exhaustion must be
> wrong. So my question: what's our paradigm- (or perhaps better,
> metaphor-) shift?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM

Dr John Lavagnino
Senior Lecturer in Humanities Computing
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
26=C3=A2=C2=80=C2=9329 Drury Lane
London WC2B 5RL
+44 20 7848 2453

General Editor, The Oxford Middleton

From - Thu Sep 04 21:59:07 2008
X-Mozilla-Status: 0001
X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000

Humanist Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005