A physicist loose among the liberal arts

Down the Rabbit-hole of Digital Humanities

Looking for material about “digital humanities”, which may be where I’m going from here, I’m finding a whole world of research I never knew about. Research of stunning triviality. I have seen horrors like a professor of rhetoric who uses the word “discursivity”.  According to Webster’s dictionary,

discursive. 1 a : moving from topic to topic without order : rambling b : proceeding coherently from topic to topic. 2 : marked by analytical reasoning. 3 : of or relating to discourse <discursive practices>

Using a word whose first two definitions directly contradict each other is a failure of rhetoric, in my estimation. Especially since the meaning couldn’t be deduced from context, which is why I looked it up.

One gleam of hope:  did you know there is a method of data analysis called “grounded theory“? It’s so impressive that it gets an acronym when people write about it. What I like about it is the tacit admission that most theory in the humanities is ungrounded.  A certain segment of humanities scholarship sees itself as airy spirits dancing swiftly above us Calibans in the physical sciences. We, in return, see them as frivolous and insubstantial.  Grounded theory might be a valuable middle ground among us, since it includes “whether the theory worked or not” as a criterion for judging the effectiveness of a hypothetical structure.  Also, everything I can find about the methodology of grounded theory says that I’ve been doing it for years.  If you expand the size of the data sets from dozens of records to thousands, it’s how I analyze the performance of transportation systems.

Anyway, now that I’m done grumbling, this is the book I was reading.




Finding problems in a text

1 Comment

  1. Joe

    Someone else is complaining about academic jargon in the humanities. Bonus points for mentioning “the deconstruction of the Donation of Constantine” .

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