The effect of computing on innovation in the humanities

I like Stanford’s definition of the humanities on their humanities website. Their definition is “the study of how people process and the document the human experience.” This manifests into many different academic fields like philosophy, literature, history, language, and several other subject that all fit under the humanities umbrella. Computing or the use of computers completely changes the way that we can process and document these subjects. In order to further develop the humanities, people will still process their own experience in the same way but the human experience has changed due to the vast globalization that computing has aided. The scope of what can be processed and accessed is vastly higher through the internet and all of the information that is stored online.

A part of the reading from Gleick that really stood out to me was the part of chapter 3 that talks about how words were spelled. In the reading it talked about how each time that someone sat down to write something they came up with the spelling however they saw fit. “In fact, few had the concept of spelling—the idea that each word, when written, should take a particular predetermined form of letters” (p. 53) I was very surprised to read this because in my mind the way that words are spelled are so set in stone. However, in actuality it was only four centuries ago that most people didn’t even have the concept of words having a specific order. When I was reading this, I related this to how quickly documentation as a whole has progressed. The state of information technology was so poor compared to what we have now. The influx of computers and the internet into our daily lives completely changes what is possible in terms of documentation, the information you can find, and the sharing of this information. Nowadays you can access information on the humanities from all around the world. This gives those trying to innovate and learn more about these certain subjects way more material to widen their own thinking. So much of philosophy, literature, and language has been developed during times where access to information was so limited. The ability to access information that computing has given us makes me believe that we can progress in any subject at a faster rate. Nowadays, the average person who is interested in a subject can learn from experts in fields that they would have no chance to learn about in the past. This gives many people the ability to fast track their experience learning from the past. Subsequently giving them much more time and experience to innovate within their fields and compare with people all around the world.

I also found chapter 5 to be interesting in how many different ways people tried to develop the telegraph. I think that this shows that some of the great minds at that time realized the effect that quick transfers of information could possibly have to life. Later in the chapter, there is a part that talks about telegraph in a way that I thought was interesting. It says “ the telegraph served not just as a device but as a medium—a middle, intermediary state. The concept of using some sort of medium to transfer information is used in computers all the time and is one of its greatest functions. With modern computers we have all sorts of different websites that act as mediums that can be very specific to what the individual person wants to find. This ties into the point I made the last paragraph regarding the ability to progress within subjects. Now that we have all of these built in mediums in the internet our access to information is incredible. The more minds that are able to access education in certain fields will inevitably progress the fields at a faster rate in terms of innovation then we have ever seen.

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