A First Law of Humanities Computing?

The law

A little more than a decade ago, when I was working on my “electronic edition” of Cædmon’s Hymn, I developed a formulation that I have since come (only semi-jokingly) to consider something of a law about the use of computing in the Humanities:

The application of computation to humanities problems inevitably requires an examination of first principles.

What I mean by this is that you can never just copy a technique from the pre-digital humanities into the digital space. If you try, you will inevitably find yourself thinking before long about fundamental questions of why, what, and how: why you want to do whatever it is you are doing, what it actually is that you are trying to accomplish, and how the thing you are trying to accomplish actually does what it is you think it does.


Testing the GRAND-DH Website

GRAND-DH is the Digital Humanities project of the GRAND National Centre of Excellence.

This is a test to see that the blog aggregator is working.

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More on Aauthors and Aalphabetical placement

In an earlier post today, I discussed some of the economic implications of having a last name beginning early in the alphabet in disciplines that traditionally order the authors on multi-author papers alphabetically.

I’ve since looked up the original paper (Einav, Liran, and Leeat Yariv. 2006. “What’s in a Surname? The Effects of Surname Initials on Academic Success.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 20 (1): 175–88). This is more startling than I thought.

First of all, from the authors’ own description:

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A is for Aardvark and author. The economic implications of having a last name with an early letter in the alphabet

In many disciplines, when more than one researcher contributes to a paper, the authors are listed in terms of the relative contribution: the first author is assumed to have done the most work, the second the second most, and so on until the last position, which is often as prestigious as first.

In other disciplines, however, the tradition is to order author names alphabetically.

This can be unfair to authors whose names come later in the alphabet, because citation conventions for multiple author contributions usually spell out the names of only the first two or three authors.

But it turns out it can also have career and financial implications. As Marusic, Bosnjak, et al. (see?) report:

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The credit line

I think it is time to get rid of authorship altogether, at least in research communication.


The Lethbridge Journal Incubator: A new business model for Open Access journal publication (Elsevier Labs Online Lectures February 18, 2014)

The Lethbridge Journal Incubator: A new business model for Open Access journal publication by Daniel Paul O’Donnell with contributions from Gillian Ayers, Kelaine Devine, Heather Hobma, Jessica Ruzack, Sandra Cowen, Leona Jacobs, Wendy Merkeley, Rhys Stevens, Marinus Swanepoel, and Maxine Tedesco. Elsevier Labs Online Lectures February 18, 2014.

The Lethbridge Journal Incubator: A new business model for Open Access journal publication by Daniel O'Donnell with contributions from Gillian Ayers, Kelaine Devine, Heather Hobma, Jessica Ruzack, Sandra Cowen, Leona Jacobs, Wendy Merkeley, Rhys Stevens, Marinus Swanepoel, and Maxine Tedesco.

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Living out loud: The Visionary Cross Project and the Public Humanities (CMRS/ETRUS. University of Saskatchewan January 16, 2014)

Just posted our talk on Living out loud: The Visionary Cross Project and the Public Humanities to slideshare.

Living out loud: The Visionary Cross Project and the Public Humanities from Heather Hobma, Daniel O'Donnell, Marco Callieri, Matteo Dellepiane, James Graham, Catherine Karkov, Roberto Rosselli Del Turco.

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Revisiting Old Irish: A new blog series

It’s been twenty odd years since I last studied Old Irish. So when a former student of mine, James Bell, came and asked if I’d work with him on Old Irish, Old Norse, Gothic, or something else old, I thought it sounded like a fun idea.

For our textbook, we’re using An Old Irish Primer by Wim Tigges in collaboration with Feargal Ó Béarra. But unlike 20 years ago, there are also lots of resources around on the Internet.

I’m going to use this blog series as a kind of notebook/reportage about what we are up to. Since this is a case of the blind leading the blind, corrections and suggestions are very much appreciated.

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Class 2.0: Digital technology & digital rhetorics in the undergraduate classroom.

I just posted the slides for my lecture to the Department yesterday: Class 2.0: Digital technology & digital rhetorics in the undergraduate classroom.

Abstract: This lecture discusses some preliminary results from an ongoing research project on the use of digital technology and digital rhetorics in the undergraduate classroom. The goal of the project is to explore how these technologies and rhetorics can address common problems in the literature classroom: weak composition skills, lack of engagement, poor preparation. Initial, at this point still largely anecdotal, results suggest that the committed integration Web 2.0 technologies and rhetorics in the classroom can greatly improve outcomes in this area.

The lecture discusses how these techniques are used and some of the results we have seen.

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Grammar and identity: Prestige, gender, and sexual orientation

A number of student in my grammar class have written essays about relative prestige in terms of grammar.

The Wikipedia has a very good entry on linguistic prestige (their linguistic entries are generally very good).

Particularly interesting for many, might be the section on gender and prestige. This section discusses what has become a rule of thumb in socio-linguistics, that men tend to speak a variety that is lower than their actual social class (i.e. is perceived by the speech community as being characteristic of a lower class) whereas women either speak at their social class level or above it.

The usual view is that men are the marked group in this (i. Read the rest of this entry »


Morphology and destiny: On words for snow and Sapir-Whorf

We had a lot of fun in my grammar class yesterday.

We were beginning a unit on morphology. The night before class, I had carefully prepared lecture notes on my tablet (I’m using a new textbook this year and taking the opportunity to revise all my lesson plans).

For reasons known only to my tablet, however, the notes I prepared were gone when I showed up in class yesterday morning , meaning that I had to wing it after all. Since my goal for the lecture was to derive a typology of English morphology from my students innate grammatical knowledge, I decided simply to write a bunch of different types of words on the board and see where things took us: dog, books, do, does, revert, convert, I’ll, we’d, and… undoifications.

Turned out this last was an inspired choice. One student clapped every time we managed to put one of the sub-forms into a meaningful sentence and the student blogs are full ideas stoked by the example: one student went home and impressed his Read the rest of this entry »


Dolphin Language

The textbook I am using in my grammar class, The Linguistic Structure of Modern English, suggests that humans are unique in that they are the only species known to show abstract language use in the wild (they do mention the example of chimpanzees that have been trained to use sign language).


Very recent research, however, provides a potential counter example: Dolphin names. It has long been known that dolphins communicate with each other verbally. And since the 1960s, researchers have believed that individual dolphins use a “signature whistle” to identify themselves that is recognised by others in their population. What is new, however, is the evidence that dolphins use the signature whistles of other dolphins to refer to them—that is to say, recognise a particular whistle sequence as being symbolic of a particular individual dolphin, distinct from themselves.


This use of arbitrary signals to refer to a specific object, if true, would invalidate the claims in Brinton Read the rest of this entry »


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