Jarrett, Jonathan: Poor tools to think with: the human space in digital diplomatics

Posted by GV in Paper, Proposals |

The speed of change encapsulated in Moore’s Law and its consequences dictate that it is very easy for those who took the time to educate themselves in computing for the humanities to find that it has now moved far beyond them. Projects with cutting-edge methodologies blunt quickly at this pace. Nonetheless, it would seem that in some areas progress is being made more slowly, these being those where the techniques required are more those of cognition than of data management. This paper uses the example of the speaker’s own doctoral project, a ‘straight’ socio-political historical enquiry that happened to employ electronic means of an untheorised kind to manage the diplomatic data on which it was founded, to explore the line between these zones. By taking an early adopter’s position it uses the speaker’s primitive approaches for the storing and sorting of diplomatic data to ask, among other things: what judgements do we ask computers to make? can human judgements in diplomatics be trusted to a computer, and if not can we change that? Where is human input still required in digital diplomatics? And, can the advantages of human and computerised judgement be enjoyed at the same time without diminishment of either?

Jonathan Jarrett
The Queen’s College,
Oxford,
eMail: jonathan.jarrett@queens.ox.ac.uk

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