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Blog Entry & Assignment No.2: Ted Nelson, Computer Lib / Dream Machines; find and share successful a

Computer Lib/Dream Machine, written in 1974 by one of the pioneers in Information Technology, Ted Nelson, is a visionary book about computers in society. In his work, he criticizes the deficient quality of papers that aimed at introducing the reader to working with computers, but actually were written in such a complicated manner and traversed by technical terms that a layman had difficulties to get access to understanding the statements in the texts, reserving the interaction with computers exclusively to experts like for example engineers. Nelson describes the prevailing circumstances in the educational system at that time and emphasizes the application of everything that encourages the student to develop his own thoughts and visions. In his eyes a major mistake is that pupils are scored not according to their actual performance in a certain field but just with hindsight to the compulsory scale everybody, independent from their personal abilities, is measured at. Although he emphasizes that computers should be used by everybody, so called computer-aided instruction (CAI) is mentioned as one of his points of criticism as it leads the student to only learning and doing exactly what the program tells him to do at that moment, thus prohibiting from thinking independent. The fact that some of the applications Nelson describes in his book actually do exist nowadays is as surprisingly as the depth of his visions was for the time. His description of the usage of hypergrams for example were accurate. Applications in which his ideas of interaction between humans and a computer program are implemented are for example graphic tablets or various kinds of applications used for Serious Gaming, where computers are used to implicate a virtual reality with the goal of giving users the chance to practice certain movements or activities before using them in a real life situation. The possibility to add information in footnotes in the way Nelson describes when talking about hypertexts, also exists today. Only short- cut commands are not exactly used as he predicted, an asterisk for example does not allow the operator to jump from one section in a text to another. Also, stretchtexts as flexible texts which either show some kind of a summary of a text if the user zooms out, and which fills the gaps between the words with all other expressions originally used in the text again if zooming in, is not existent as of now. In Google Maps we can find a realization of Nelsons vision of a hypermap and finally, although it is not existent yet, the mentioned interactive computer systems, where an operator not only is able to see for example a 3D model of a diagram he uses, but also can feel its structures and the like with help of a glove, seems to be feasible. All in all, it is impressive how many of Nelsons ideas are reflected in systems that exist today and with which accuracy pioneers of the past, as also Vannevar Bush has been, predicted future systems and circumstances.

22.11.14 01:44, kommentieren


Blog Entry & Assignment No.1: DH and you. How does DH challenge, support, rethink, expand your appro

I had first contact with the term of Digital Humanities in the beginning of my studies of Linguistics and Literary Computing at TU Darmstadt. Before that I never really thought about a term that could describe the digital editions of books, the digitalized manuscripts in old archives or other computational tools and aids that simplified the work with the amount of texts in my literary studies. In the course of my studies in Darmstadt I got to know many new approaches to handle literary texts and especially how to deal with fairly large quantities of literature. During my year abroad in Norway, I encountered the issue to find suitable literature for writing my term papers. I was not in a position to choose which topic I wanted to write about. For the grade to be allowed for my degree in Germany, I had to write about a topic the library in Norway had absolutely no relevant literature on. The possibilities to scan texts, upload them and send them via E- Mail around the globe in just a few minutes saved the completion of my term paper. An old sonnet I needed for my analysis, that was more than a hundred years old and hence nearly impossible to get hands on directly had been digitalized and could so be provided for the general public, allowing myself to conduct a study about traditional and modern sonnets. With help of electronic tools, completely new possibilities to conduct studies presented themselves. Large quantities of text can be uploaded into a program and afterwards analyzed with a focus on the frequency with which certain words appear in a corpus, the allocation and textual context of words, grammatical peculiarities which can be found or the systematic comparison of the texts of the corpus in general. Being able to translate data from a language I never learned to one I understood in just a short space of time was another benefit technology facilitated, even if the translations sometimes just sufficed to get a rough idea about what the text dealt with. As I publish this text in my blog, everybody who is interested will immediately be able to read it and to comment and give feedback on it. Although I would not want that with every text I ever wrote, I can control which work I want to be read by the community and have the possibility to get valuable feedback on it before handing it in for correction, making sure that the work can be understood by outsiders and hence also correctors. It is nevertheless important to be aware of the downsides the digital world opens, for instance the possibility of unnoticed theft of intellectual property through websites everybody can visit. Keeping this in mind, though, should remind everybody to be careful with where they publish their data and which public they make it visible for. The advantages Digital Humanities present, are for me reason enough to say that I would not want to miss the opportunity to read ancient texts online or process large quantities of data, even if the programs that help me with doing so sometimes do not yet work perfectly and the technologies do have their disadvantages as well. For me personally, Digital Humanities clearly made it easier to conduct properly researched studies on literature.

1.11.14 17:52, kommentieren