Monday, June 30, 2014

Computing as Model for Mind, Games, and the Digital Humanities

Just a quick note here, on my hobby horse about the stark neglect of computer as model for the mind in digital criticism, a hobbyhorse I’ve ridden in this working paper, Two Disciplines in Search of Love.

By digital criticism I mean, of course, the use of digital tools for the study of literature. But that is by no means the alpha and the omega of digital humanities, it’s just what most interesting to me because of my interest in literature. But the digital humanities surely extends to media studies – though I understand there are boundary issues there – and media studies must include games and, of course, film. And these days film includes digital special effects, which entails the simulation of the phenomena being images.

The thing about digital games is that many of them will use the kinds of AI techniques originally developed back in the 1970s and 1980s to investigate narrative and at least some of those techniques were conceived as simulations of human mental processes – toy simulations, but simulations nonetheless. So the concepts that first attracted me to cognitive science are instantiated there in the objects of study. Can scholars who investigate those games really avoid coming to terms with the concepts driving them?

I think not. I see no way for the digital humanities to avoid beginning to think in terms of the computational mind. There will be squirming and rearguard invoking of humanistic imperatives and the like but it’s not the 1970s, when it was easy to side-step the issue. And, as I’ve posted recently, I even see steps in that direction (The Digital Mind Creeps up on Digital Humanities, DH2014: Computing the Literary Mind).

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