Chapter

Computation and the Humanities

Part of the series Springer Series on Cultural Computing pp 37-54

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Date:

Individuation Is There in All the Different Strata: John Burrows, Hugh Craig and Willard McCarty

  • Julianne NyhanAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, University College London (UCL)
  • , Andrew FlinnAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, University College London (UCL)

Abstract

This oral history interview between Willard McCarty (on behalf of Julianne Nyhan), John Burrows and Hugh Craig took place on 4 June 2013 at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Harold Short (Professor of Humanities Computing at King’s College London and a Visiting Professor at the University of Western Sydney in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics) was also present for much of the interview. Burrows recounts that his first encounter with computing took place in the late 1970s, via John Lambert, who was then the Director of the University of Newcastle’s Computing Service. Burrows had sought Lambert out when the card-indexes of common words that he had been compiling became too difficult and too numerous to manage. Craig’s first contact was in the mid-1980s, after Burrows put him in charge of a project that used a Remington word processor. At many points in the interview Burrows and Craig reflect on the substantial amount of time, and, indeed, belief, that they invested not only in the preparation of texts for analysis but also in the learning and development of new processes and techniques (often drawn from disciplines outside English Literature). Much is said about the wider social contexts of such processes: Craig, for example, reflects on the sense of possibility and purposefulness that having Burrows as a colleague helped to create for him. Indeed, he wonders whether he would have had the confidence to invest the time and effort that he did had he been elsewhere. Burrows emphasises the network of formal and informal, national and international expertise that he benefitted from, for example, John Dawson in Cambridge and Susan Hockey in Oxford. So too they reflect on the positive results that the scepticism they sometimes encountered had on their work. As central as computing has been to their research lives they emphasise that their main aim was to study literature and continuing to publish in core literature journals (in addition to DH journals) has been an important aspect of this. Though they used techniques and models that are also used by Linguists and Statisticians their focus has remained on questioning rather than answering.