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Computer Science Seminar

Computer Science Seminar: Convergent games on common ground? Humanities computing, computer science and cultural artifacts

Date: Thursday 25 May 2006

Time: 11:00

Venue: Room 101, Computer Science dept

Speaker: Willard McCarty, Kings College London

As computer science develops, its demand for more interesting and challenging problems grows apace. As William Wulf has observed, "Every time that computer scientists have approached a new problem domain, we've discovered new things about computers" (Ubiquity 1.28, 2000). For computer science, humanistic scholarship doubtless constitutes "a problem domain that will open up whole new classes of fascinating challenges", but puzzle-solving no more exhausts the value of computing than clever knowledge jukeboxes or the wishfully semantic web. In a curious and significant way, Margaret Boden's The Creative Mind (2nd edn, 2004), for example, persuasively demonstrates that AI has important things to say about problems of genuine concern to scholars in the humanities. What's curious and significant to me is the trajectory of that saying, expressed in Peter Denning's pithy reduction of computer science to the question, "What can be automated?" (American Scientist 73.1, 1985), or Marvin Minsky's to proprietorship of "the concept of procedure" (Turing Award lecture, 1970). In this talk I will discuss the opposed but complementary trajectory of humanities computing - whose central question is, What cannot be automated? - while hoping to provoke visions of convergence, such as Empirical Modelling.

For more information on Willard McCarty, visit