|Underlying Theme of Book|
Many multiple-author books do not provide an index (a simple, familiar "mind technology") since it is difficult to reconcile their various "languages". This book kindly provides an index which helps tease out its underlying theme. Once you clear out the clutter of all those names and acronyms mentioned above, the content becomes clearer. There are statistical terms (chi-squared test, Poisson Distribution, etc.) and there are computer terms (e.g. remote access, optical character reader, etc.), indicating that the modern researcher must acquire competence in those other disciplines. What remains are terms relating to the analysis of a corpus (text analysis, stylometrics, author attribution, etc.), which is the central competence of our meta-discipline. Examples of a corpus considered in the book are the published works of 185 Canadian poets from the 18th to the 20th century (pp. 47-55), 40,000 letters of Bertrand Russell (pp. 63-66), and the journal of Canadian explorer, J. B. Tynell, in 5000 images (pp. 131-159). The numbers are included to indicate the inadequacy of traditional tools like indices and concordances (now available at amazon.com) in dealing with such a large corpus. Hence the need for computer-based tools. Humanities scholars are like CSI detectives focussed on a corpus rather than a corpse. This book is about the creation and use of tools to extract evidence to crack cases, not of human cruelty but of human creativity, not to explain what made the corpse dead but to understand what makes the corpus live.
Both art and science advance with refinements in their technologies. This is clearer in the case of science. Astronomy is largely the story of the evolution of the telescope and biology of the evolution of the microscope. This book is about how humanities has recently made remarkable advances because of developments in its technology - the computer. Just as the telescope brings the too far near enough to study and the microscope makes the too small large enough to study, the computer makes the too complex simple enough to study. Humanities is not rocket science. Rocket science is easy, since it deals with simple systems we have created ourselves. Humanities deals with people, complex systems created by nature over hundreds of thousands of years, and their productions. Telescopes and microscopes are not "mind technologies" because they simply extend the eye. The computer is a mind technology since it extends the central nervous system. Or rather the computer to store information and the internet to transmit information respectively simulate memory and speech, which nature provides us as part of the conception-day gift. By once again plagiarising nature, we have developed a perfect prosthetic for extending our minds. In exploring such mind technologies, this book contributes to the intelligence amplification (IA) tradition.
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