File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 224

Date:         Mon, 29 Sep 2008 08:38:34 +0100
From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty-AT-MCCARTY.ORG.UK>
Subject: 22.233 our role in fixing things
To: humanist-AT-Princeton.EDU

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 233.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to:

   [1]   From:    Humanist Discussion Group                           21)
         Subject: Re: 22.230 what is our role in fixing things?

   [2]   From:    Humanist Discussion Group                           34)
         Subject: Re: 22.230 what is our role in fixing things?

         Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 08:34:40 +0100
         From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
         Subject: Re: 22.230 what is our role in fixing things?
         In-Reply-To: <>


the question is obviously in the air (is it because of the fall, or
start of academic year?), because I just had the chance to talk about a
book on a similar theme: Konrad Paul Liessmann, Theorie der Unbildung.
Die Irrtuemer der Wissensgesellschaft. The book is newly translated in
Croatian, and we found out, with some surprise, that this is a first
book-long argument to appear in Croatia *against* the promised land of
"knowledge society" (which seems to be land of knowledge

Anyway, one possible point of reference for digital humanists can be
found in well known Choruses from "The Rock" by T S Eliot ("Where is the
wisdom we have lost in knowledge? / Where is the knowledge we have lost
in information?") --- if we take into account *all three* "levels" of
knowing. Computing, obviously, deals with "information"; higher
education, arguably, aimed at "wisdom" (or at least von Humboldt liked
to think about it that way). Digital humanities is able to show how, in
this layered structure, information differs from knowledge. Could it
move somehow towards the third level?



Zagreb, Hrvatska / Croatia

         Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 08:35:27 +0100
         From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
         Subject: Re: 22.230 what is our role in fixing things?
         In-Reply-To: <>

Willard, some quick reflections on your important email about education
and training (as I like to put it).

First, my vision. In my ideal world, student would do a first degree to
get an education, a second degree to get training. Law is probably the
best model, at least in the 'true north strong and free', as Canada's
anthem has it. So business schools, engineering schools, journal
schools, ... would over only post-graduate degrees.

That said, one thing to ask is: Have things got worse? I have been at a
university for almost 50 years, six universities in three countries on
two continents. My answer would be, On the education side, for the most
part, no. Certainly research funding has been sharply steered away from
basic, curiousity-driven work in some countries (though not Canada,
thank goodness). But at the undegraduate level, I would say that the mix
is about the same as it always has been. Some young people arrive
wanting to have their minds expanded. They do philosophy or literature
or history or physics or mathmatics, depending on their predilection.
Others want a ticket to an interesting, well-paid job. They do business
or engineering. Still others want to change the world. They do
environmental studies or, sometimes, sociology or political science (the
latter esp if they are headed for law school and politics). Yet others
want to understand something big and important. They do cognitive
science or biology or ... . And so it goes and so it has gone for a long

What can we do? No single small group of academics and researchers is
going to make a global difference. But what we can do, each of us, is to
be in the mind-expanding and human-flourishing business in everything we
do with students individually and in our various groups. This might not
make a global difference but it can make a huge difference to the lives
with which we are actually in contact. Plus, the resulting relationships
make the work more than worthwhile all by themselves. And it is nice to
have former students come back years later and tell you how much they
got out of your course/research group/discussion group.

My two cents' worth.


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