ayjay + scholarship   8

Peer review: the end of an error?
Why does any of this matter? Defenders of formal peer review usually admit that it is flawed, but go on to say, as though it were obvious, that any other system would be worse. But it is not obvious at all. If academics put their writings directly online and systems were developed for commenting on them, one immediate advantage would be a huge amount of money saved. Another would be that we would actually get to find out what other people thought about a paper, rather than merely knowing that somebody had judged it to be above a certain not very precise threshold (or not knowing anything at all if it had been rejected). We would be pooling our efforts in useful ways: for instance, if a paper had an error that could be corrected, this would not have to be rediscovered by every single reader.

An alternative system would almost certainly not be perfect, but to insist on perfection, given the imperfections of the current system, is nothing but status quo bias. To guard against this, imagine that an alternative system were fully established and see whether you can mount a convincing argument for switching to what we have now, where all the valuable commentary would be hidden away and we would have to pay large sums of money to read each other’s writings. You would be laughed out of court.
academe  scholarship 
october 2017 by ayjay
Why Donald Trump Has Been Good For Truth
In paying less attention to truth, we humanists have undermined the strongest argument to be made for why scholarship is important. At the end of his 1950 article, Momigliano explained that the historian’s search for truth is a form of religious life. Scholarship may be secular, but devotion still drives the modern academic venture: the researcher is a secularized monk, truth is sacred, and its pursuit is a path of holiness.

It’s not likely that much of this sentiment is conveyed to doctoral students or newly minted Ph.Ds. And, of course, researchers are not saints and devotion to truth in one’s footnotes does not mean that one does not cheat on one’s taxes. Yet the scholar’s habitus does track a religious calling. If we are going to take truth seriously we will need to take the meaning of its pursuit — not just its ends — equally seriously. We can’t yet know if those shocked by Trump’s Pyrrhonism will turn back to traditional cultures of evidence. But we in the academy can seize this moment to pay new attention to research: its history and practices, its social meaning, and, finally, its ethical importance.
politics  academe  scholarship  from instapaper
august 2017 by ayjay
Revisiting "The Secularization of the Academy" | Books and Culture | James Turner
Vigorous though the latter debate was, it is unclear to me today how much it mattered. Religion has won a certain autonomy in the secular academy. More scholars now than two decades ago treat faith as a first-order phenomenon that cannot be reduced to biology or sociology. But Christian professors (in contrast, say, to feminist ones) have not proven adept at drawing on Christianity to propose new methodologies or fresh lines of research in their disciplines. Nor have Christian colleges and universities spent much capital egging them on. Such Christian scholarship as exists today (beyond biblical and theological studies) lies in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. (Methodist astronomy, anyone?) And arguments around it have lately been drowned out by wailing over the “crisis” of the humanities.

If all humanistic learning is to give way to scientific research and technical training, what’s the point in arguing about the Christian piece of it? The fascinating debate set off by The Secularization of the Academy begins to seem a relic of a moment that has flown.
humanities  Christianity  scholarship 
january 2016 by ayjay
Unsworth's "scholarly primitives"
The notion of "primitives" as the "finite list of self-understood terms" from which, without recourse to further definitions or explanations, axiomatic logic may proceed, has (as you probably know) run into some difficulty in philosophy and mathematics, especially in the 20th century, but it's not my purpose here to sort that out--I'm using the term "primitives" in a self-consciously analogical way, to refer to some basic functions common to scholarly activity across disciplines, over time, and independent of theoretical orientation. These "self-understood" functions form the basis for higher-level scholarly projects, arguments, statements, interpretations--in terms of our original, mathematical/philosophical analogy, axioms. My list of scholarly primitives is not meant to be exhaustive, I won't give each of them equal attention today, and I would welcome suggested additions and debate over alterations or deletions, but here's a starting point:







My immediate intention in presenting these is to suggest a list of functions (recursive functions) that could be the basis for a manageable but also useful tool-building enterprise in humanities computing. My list of primitives is in no particular order--in fact, the two that seem to me to be the true primitives here are "referring" and "representing" since each of these is in some way involved in all the others. More on those two as we come to them. With respect to the list as a whole, my argument is that these activities are basic to scholarship across eras and across media, yet my particular interest is in scholarship that is based on digital information, and in particular, networked digital information.
DH  scholarship  humanities 
may 2015 by ayjay
The World’s Weirdest Library - The New Yorker
Freedberg spent many formative years working at the library, and, like every newly created boss of an old institution with a high opinion of itself, he is obviously tactful about seeming to want to change the institution too radically. But he also makes it clear that he feels the Warburg has departed from some of the richer intellectual paths it pioneered. “In the past thirty years, the Warburg seemed, I think it’s fair to say, to have become wary about exploring the lower and more basic levels of cultural formations—those rougher sides of culture, the superstitious and even the barbaric, which fascinated Warburg himself,” he said the other day. “Warburg was interested in the engines that sustained imagery in human minds and caused symbols to recur, rather than wanting to simply collect archival evidence of its persistence. There’s been a reluctance to explore the sides of Warburg that were concerned with the irrational and the universal. We need to get back to thinking about the Urformen and the engrams in contemporary terms—to the study, including the neurological and scientific study, of culturally modulated gestures. The failure to understand that task contributed to the decline of the Warburg, even while, paradoxically, the public interest in Aby Warburg has grown.

“My dream of reviving the Warburg is a dream of making it the center of vigorous and vital cultural history in our time. It needs to engage with current debates, however dismaying. The Warburg is very well positioned to take a stand on crosscultural ethical issues, on cross-disciplinary issues—even questions of human rights. It can be, and, I hope, will be, more engaged with contemporary issues than it has ever been before.”
art  scholarship  humanities 
march 2015 by ayjay
Anthony Grafton reviews ‘Impolite Learning’ by Anne Goldgar · LRB 5 October 1995
Once author and printer had reached their agreement, moreover, the corrector often continued to play a vital role in the drama of publication. He might well put the manuscript into better order, improve its spelling and punctuation, and make final decisions about its content. In return for all this formally unpaid assistance, the corrector received praise from the author, a copy of the resulting publication, and, if all went well, a paid commission. He hoped to correct the proofs of the work in question, a service normally provided not by the author but by a professional, and one for which the printer would pay a set fee. Something between an agent and a desk editor in modern terms, the corrector greased the squeaky gears of literary commerce, enabling authors to escape or mitigate what some already called the ‘Despotique Tyranny of Booksellers’ – though at the price of subjecting them to what modern authors often revile as the triumphant idiocy of copyeditors.

The existence of these figures, whom Goldgar describes, quite reasonably, as the first literary agents, points to the increasing specialisation and professionalisation of the world of letters. By contrast, the many widely read review journals which also came into being around 1700 show that ideals of cosmopolitanism and amateurism also continued to flourish in the Republic. By the later years of the 17th century, the streams of literature that had issued for more than two centuries from Europe’s presses had swelled and merged in an irresistible flood. Scholars found themselves increasingly hard-pressed to read all of this material, much less to cite it appositely and critically. The enormous older printed literature swarmed with multiple, divergent editions of crucial literary, historical and theological texts. Bibliographical ghosts and legends – like that of the famous, but non-existent, work of libertine thought, the Book on the Three Impostors – haunted collectors and libraries. At the same time, each year’s Frankfurt fair brought vast quantities of new texts and theories onto the market. The sprawling footnotes of Bayle’s Dictionary give a sense of the immense range of textual and bibliographical information which one had to master simply in order to follow the debates of the learned. The price of entry to the intellectual games of the Republic was very high.
history  humanism  scholarship 
november 2013 by ayjay
Anthony Grafton reviews ‘Egyptian Oedipus’ by Daniel Stolzenberg and ‘Exploring the Kingdom of Saturn’ by Harry Evans · LRB 7 November 2013
Seeing Kircher first and foremost as a scholar and antiquary has several advantages. Stolzenberg shows us that many other scholars who have never been seen as figures of fun hurled themselves into similar quests. Even the sober Isaac Casaubon, half a century before Kircher, had hoped to travel to the Middle East in order to acquire texts in Arabic that contained treasures of lost ancient wisdom. By Kircher’s time, the Church’s missionary efforts were bringing manuscripts of many kinds – and, in some cases, native experts who could read them – back to Rome, where European scholars competed to exploit and publish them. These efforts were not confined to Catholic lands. In Leiden, one of the intellectual citadels of Reformed Protestantism, the Scaliger bequest – a rich collection of Oriental manuscripts, which kept growing after its donor’s death – was a magnet for scholars. In London and Paris, Oxford and Cambridge, the collections of Eastern manuscripts grew, and hopes of enlightenment flickered bright. Across Europe, in other words, scholars believed that they might discover secrets of great power – the secrets of alchemy, for example, by which they meant the serious art of metallic crystal ‘chymistry’ practised by Boyle and Newton – not only on the benches in their laboratories, but also in ancient manuscripts. Kircher, a seeker of ancient wisdom and lord of a modern museum that bulged with esoteric texts and curious machines, is right at the centre of the intellectual world that Stolzenberg recreates, its hopeful gaze turned backwards as often as forwards....

Historians, my teacher Eric Cochrane used to say, can’t know much about mystics, since historians work inside time and space while mystics escape both. But like the clerical authorities, we can recognise a mystic when we see one. Perhaps we can identify Kircher as a mystical historian and philologist – one who realised that he could not cross the abyss that separated the present from the past by reading texts and grubbing in ruins. And perhaps that realisation set him on a different path: the kind of swooping, dramatic ascent that brought other mystics to their union with the divine. If so, we can begin to understand why Kircher knew so certainly that he was right, while the scholars who depended on mere reason and argument were wrong. He had been there. We can even guess how he made the journey. As part of their discipline, Jesuits learned from the Spiritual Exercises of their founder, Ignatius of Loyola, to practise ‘composition of place’. They visualised in detail the scene of Christ’s crucifixion or the damned suffering in hell, smoke, stench and all, and drew spiritual profit from conversing with and contemplating the figures represented in these images. When Kircher recreated fantastic ancient cities and temples, in Egypt and in Latium, he could have been using this characteristic method, which Jesuits mastered before they became full members of the order. By applying a standard devotional technique in this characteristically original way, he could for a time assuage his antiquarian’s sense of loss.
history  humanism  scholarship 
november 2013 by ayjay
Jerome J. McGann, “Memory Now” | 4Humanities
In humanities research and education we speak of critics and scholars. Both, once upon a time, were understood to practice what was called philology, or in August Boeckh’s famous definition, Die Erkenntnis des Erkannten — “the knowledge of what is and has been known.” The fundamental obligation of philology, of the humanities, is the preservation of cultural memory. It is an obligation that has been made both more difficult and more imperative in a world of just-in-time globalized cultural exchange.

In this respect Paul Connerton’s How Modernity Forgets (Cambridge University Press, 2009) is exemplary of the problem of memory, and hence of culture, in a cybernetted world. “We are living in a culture of hypermnesia,” Connerton remarks, only to add immediately that “we are living in a post-mnemonic, a forgetful, culture” (146). The paradox is for him only apparent, however, since he recognizes these conditions as codependent functions.
tech  DH  memory  scholarship  from instapaper
april 2013 by ayjay

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