The Humanities and Computing

On the first day of class, Professor Schact led a conversation regarding the concept of the humanities. He encouraged the class to interpret this definition. While Google simplifies the term as “academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture,” as well as “the human race,” our class explored alternative definitions as we each related the term to our own majors.

On the first day of class, Professor Schact led a conversation regarding the concept of the humanities. He encouraged the class to interpret this definition. While Google simplifies the term as “academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture,” as well as “the human race,” our class explored alternative definitions as we each related the term to our own majors.

I explored this concept in my own individual lens. I took a hold of it psychologically, since I am a psychology major. Because of this, I pay close attention to people’s behavior and the way they interact with others. Based on this, I interpreted this term as a way of understanding people and more specifically, understanding how people relate. 

Others of us in the class who may be history or mathematics majors internalized this discussion more in terms of theorem or in terms of field ideas. While we did not all arrive at just one correct answer as to how to define this concept, I do believe that our inability to concretely decide on one definition of the humanities in itself showed the beauty of the term. This class discussion further demonstrated the way in which academic disciplines are so interconnected. Not only are they interconnected as broadly as the material, but also in the words that are used to identify concepts and terms. This umbrella term of the humanities only goes to show how applicable this term is to life itself, which shows what it means to be human.  

Furthermore, a strong relationship exists between computing and the humanities. While I typically associate computing with mathematics and STEM, this term also refers to communication. Last semester I took an Interpersonal Communication class with an esteemed professor, and I realized just how expansive communication is; I do it every day by calling, texting, facetiming, speaking, and writing. It is a continuously ongoing process. To fully link this connection, communication is one of the foundations of the humanities. The only way philosophers years ago were able to make more discoveries and were able to explore ideas is because of communication and sharing ideas. Without this as a foundation, the humanities would be underdeveloped. 

James Gleick discusses the idea of the dictionary in chapter three of his novel The Information. This chapter largely focuses on the production of dictionaries and the growth of vocabulary over time. At the time, philosophers tried to discover every word in the world, but they realized that in order to define a word, such as science, they needed to develop language. To demonstrate this ongoing growth, Gleick defined the dictionary as a “a malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic” (66). In other words, the academic disciplines within the humanities, as well as all other outside knowledge, continuously contribute to this project. The dictionary itself is a reflection of communication between and among people, and also exhibits history as it displays the origin of words. In order to communicate, people need to have a basis of words, and further, words are needed to communicate ideas. The dictionary, as described in the text, is in a specific, organized order. This order is referred to as alphabetic order. It simplifies the searching process so that words can be easily found and also brings additional meaning to words. As said, “only when printing – and the dictionary… could anyone develop a sense of word meaning as interdependent or even circular. Words had to be considered as words, representing other words, apart from thing” which further indicates that in order to understand any word, language itself needs to be understood (66). This itself is the epitome of communication. The only way I can understand or even articulate my own thoughts whether in this assignment or even in a conversation is by understanding the meaning of the words I am using and what meaning they contribute to the sentence I am forming. Words bring rise to more words which further develops vocabulary and meaning. 

To further forge this connection regarding the meanings of words and the connections between people and language, Gleick also includes, “The dictionary ratifies the persistence of the word. It declares that the meanings of words come from other words.  It implies that all words, taken together, form an interlocking structure: interlocking, because all words are defined in terms of other words” (66). This concept of circularity is a good representation of the dictionary and is also supportive of the basis of the humanities. The humanities comprise all of these academic disciplines. Each discipline uses words and concepts that are essential to its study. And these words are also found in other disciplines. For instance, I may learn about Measures of Central Tendency (MCT) such as mean, median, and mode in a statistics class for mathematics. With how interlocked different subject matters are, I may also learn about this exact material as it applies to Behavioral Research Methods for psychology. Just as the dictionary demonstrates circularity within its language, this circularity is then evident within majors and classes. Communication interlocks with the humanities. 

On the first day of class, Professor Schact led a conversation regarding the concept of the humanities. He encouraged the class to interpret this definition. While Google simplifies the term as “academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture,” as well as “the human race,” our class explored alternative definitions as we each related the term to our own majors.

I explored this concept in my own individual lens. I took a hold of it psychologically, since I am a psychology major. Because of this, I pay close attention to people’s behavior and the way they interact with others. Based on this, I interpreted this term as a way of understanding people and more specifically, understanding how people relate. 

Others of us in the class who may be history or mathematics majors internalized this discussion more in terms of theorem or in terms of field ideas. While we did not all arrive at just one correct answer as to how to define this concept, I do believe that our inability to concretely decide on one definition of the humanities in itself showed the beauty of the term. This class discussion further demonstrated the way in which academic disciplines are so interconnected. Not only are they interconnected as broadly as the material, but also in the words that are used to identify concepts and terms. This umbrella term of the humanities only goes to show how applicable this term is to life itself, which shows what it means to be human.  

Furthermore, a strong relationship exists between computing and the humanities. While I typically associate computing with mathematics and STEM, this term also refers to communication. Last semester I took an Interpersonal Communication class with an esteemed professor, and I realized just how expansive communication is; I do it every day by calling, texting, face-timing, speaking, and writing. It is a continuously ongoing process. To fully link this connection, communication is one of the foundations of the humanities. The only way philosophers years ago were able to make more discoveries and were able to explore ideas is because of communication and sharing ideas. Without this as a foundation, the humanities would be underdeveloped.

James Gleick discusses the idea of the dictionary in chapter three of his novel The Information. This chapter largely focuses on the production of dictionaries and the growth of vocabulary over time. At the time, philosophers tried to discover every word in the world, but they realized that in order to define a word, such as science, they needed to develop language. To demonstrate this ongoing growth, Gleick defined the dictionary as a “a malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic” (66). In other words, the academic disciplines within the humanities, as well as all other outside knowledge, continuously contribute to this project. The dictionary itself is a reflection of communication between and among people, and also exhibits history as it displays the origin of words. In order to communicate, people need to have a basis of words, and further, words are needed to communicate ideas. The dictionary, as described in the text, is in a specific, organized order. This order is referred to as alphabetic order. It simplifies the searching process so that words can be easily found and also brings additional meaning to words. As said, “only when printing – and the dictionary… could anyone develop a sense of word meaning as interdependent or even circular. Words had to be considered as words, representing other words, apart from thing” which further indicates that in order to understand any word, language itself needs to be understood (66). This itself is the epitome of communication. The only way I can understand or even articulate my own thoughts whether in this assignment or even in a conversation is by understanding the meaning of the words I am using and what meaning they contribute to the sentence I am forming. Words bring rise to more words which further develops vocabulary and meaning. 

To further forge this connection regarding the meanings of words and the connections between people and language, Gleick also includes, “The dictionary ratifies the persistence of the word. It declares that the meanings of words come from other words.  It implies that all words, taken together, form an interlocking structure: interlocking, because all words are defined in terms of other words” (66). This concept of circularity is a good representation of the dictionary and is also supportive of the basis of the humanities. The humanities comprise all of these academic disciplines. Each discipline uses words and concepts that are essential to its study. And these words are also found in other disciplines. For instance, I may learn about Measures of Central Tendency (MCT) such as mean, median, and mode in a statistics class for mathematics. With how interlocked different subject matters are, I may also learn about this exact material as it applies to Behavioral Research Methods for psychology. Just as the dictionary demonstrates circularity within its language, this circularity is then evident within majors and classes. Communication interlocks with the humanities. 

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