Suggested Readings

A bibliographic sketch for expanding & deepening ideas of virtuality in the humanities

Willard McCarty

Professor of Humanities Computing

King’s College London

Mellon/FAS Summit, 

Stanford Research Institute, 

Palo Alto CA, 

16-17 February 2008

“To write is to walk on a pavement of citations. To read is to hear a hand whisper under a table. To explore possible worlds is to be a geographer with a mind that matters and a matter that minds. To gamble is to realize that every thought gives off a throw of dice.”

Gunnar Olssen, ‘Doughnutting: Discussion of Jakko Hintikka’s paper “Exploring Possible Worlds”’ (Allén 1989: 81)

The following bibliography is intended to inflect the notion of “virtual worlds” so as to expand its scope into the primarily non-visual disciplines of the humanities. Thus it is a sketch not of “virtual reality” as a synonym for verisimilar computer-generated visualisation nor of its extensions into the non-visualised disciplines. Rather it begins with Jerome Bruner’s argument that the central purpose of the humanities is to explore “the alternativeness of human possibility”. It attempts roughly to indicate some of the known but poorly explored potential for implementing possible worlds in Bruner’s sense. 

A half-century ago we began with character-strings because visual representation was too hard an engineering problem. (Words were also too hard, and language harder yet, but mostly we elided the difference between strings and words so did not notice.) The implicit argument here is that having largely engineered the visual, now is the time to go further – and that this means getting back to words as words and the possible worlds built with them.

All items that follow are either available by URL or are downloadable from the same location.

I. Bibliographies

3D Visualisation in the Arts Network. 3DVisA Bibliography of 3D Visualisation (in progress). (6 February 2008).

London Charter. Selected Bibliography. (6/2/08).

II. Visual reasoning and criticism

Arnheim, Rudolf. 1980. “A Plea for Visual Thinking”. Critical Inquiry 6.3 (Spring): 489-97.

An argument for the interrelation of reasoning and perceiving by the author of Art and Visual Perception (1954), one of the most influential and widely read books on art to date; provides a response from perceptual psychology and art criticism to ongoing work in the neurobiology of vision, e.g. by Semir Zeki (  

Gooding, David C. 2004. “Envisioning explanations – the art in science”. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 29.3: 278-94.

Argues from the perspective of the history of the physical sciences for a coherent but still poorly understood method behind visual imaging practices in those sciences. The author has done groundbreaking work e.g. on the laboratory notebooks of Michael Faraday, who used diagramming as a reasoning tool. 

Hermon, Sorin, Franco Niccolucci and Andrea D’Andrea. 2005. “Some Evaluations of the Potential Impact of Virtual Reality on the Archaeological Scientific Research”. VSMM 2005, (6/2/08)

An argument for the use of 3D visualisation as a reasoning, problem-solving approach to archaeology rather than merely as a means of depiction; points out that despite enormous increase of activity in construction of visual models, they remain without much effect on archaeological research methods; notes in detail the reasoning potential of 3D modelling. 

III. Other possible worlds

Boden, Margaret A. 1995. “Creativity and Unpredictability”. In Constructions of the Mind: Artificial Intelligence and the Humanities. Ed. Stefano Franchi and Güven Güzeldere. Stanford Humanities Review 4.2: 123-140. (31 January 2008).

An approach to the question of imaginative creativity from the author of Mind as Machine: A History of Cognitive Science (2006) and The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (2nd edn, 2004); usefully distinguishes varieties of creative response; argues that creativity requires constraints – and so attention to the characteristics of our media for modelling.

Bruner, Jerome. 1986. “Possible Castles”. In Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. 44-54. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

The most appealing and insightful attempt of which I am aware to distinguish the sciences from the humanities; argues that the difference in their trajectories is between convergence on a single formulation of how things work and exploration of “the alternativeness of human possibility” (quoted above). Hence the argument that the construction of possible worlds is the essential mission of all the humanities, not just those centred on visual artefacts.

Drucker, Johanna and Bethany Nowviskie. 2004. “Speculative Computing: Aesthetic Provocations in Humanities Computing”. In Companion to Digital Humanities.  Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell. (31 January 2008).

Identifies the central challenge of the digital humanities: to show that “digital approaches don’t simply provide objects of study in new formats, but shift the critical ground on which we conceptualize our activity”; argues for alternatives to procedures of automation, not merely objections, or resignation, to them; outlines “speculative computing”, which prioritizes and captures intuitive approaches to knowledge.

Johnson-Laird, P. N. 1993. “Jazz Improvisation: A Theory at the Computational Level”. In Representing Musical Structure. Ed. P. Howell, R. West, I. J. Cross. 291-325. London: Academic Press.

A cognitive psychological theory of jazz improvisation developed in computational terms, following on such work as David Sudnow’s, in Ways of the Hand (1978, rev 2001) and Paul Berliner’s, culminating in Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation (1994); asks, “what the mind has to compute in order to produce an acceptable improvisation”? See also Boden’s The Creative Mind, pp. 167-70.

McCarty, Willard. 2008 (forthcoming). Review of Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Siegfried Zielinski. Literary and Linguistic Computing.

Zielinski’s Deep Time is an historiographically sophisticated Foucauldian archaeology of media explorers in the 16th through 20th Centuries that reconstructs their imaginative worlds in as close to their own terms as seems possible. See the review for more.

McGann, Jerome. 2006. “Visible Language, Interface, IVANHOE”. In The Scholar’s Art: Literary Studies in a Managed World.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 148-71.

A discussion of McGann’s groundbreaking attempt to construct an authorial “inner standing point” from which to practice a form of critical engagement with literature based on Bakhtinian and related literary theory and parallel ideas in theoretical biology and several other fields; constitutes a environment, constrained by a given text, in which to imagine unrealised potentialities of that text.


Allén, Sture, ed., Possible Worlds in Humanities, Arts and Sciences: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 65. Research in Text Theory / Untersuchungen zur Texttheorie, vol. 14. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1989.

A series of papers and responses to them, grouped into sections on philosophy; linguistics; literature and the arts; and the natural sciences. 

Other Suggested Readings on Visualization Research in Virtual Worlds submitted by conference participants:

Frischer, B., 2005. "The Digital Roman Forum Project: Remediating the Traditions of Roman Topography, in Acts of the 2nd Italy-United States Workshop, Rome, Italy, November 3-5, 2003, Berkeley, USA, May, 2005 edited by M. Forte, BAR International Series 1379 (Oxford 2005) 9-21.

Frischer, B. et al., 2002. "From CVR to CVRO. The Past, Present, and Future of Cultural Virtual Reality," by B. Frischer, F. Niccolucci, N. Ryan, J. Barcelò, Proceedings of VAST 2000, ed. F. Niccolucci, British Archaeological Reports 834 (ArcheoPresss, Oxford) 7-18.

Frischer, B. and P. Stinson, 2007. "The Importance of Scientific Authentication and a Formal Visual Language in Virtual Models of Archaeological Sites: The Case of the House of Augustus and Villa of the Mysteries," in Interpreting The Past: Heritage, New Technologies and Local Development. Sponsored by Flemish Heritage Institute, Provincial Archaeological Museum Ename, Province of East Flanders, Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation. Proceedings of the Conference on Authenticity, Intellectual Integrity and Sustainable Development of the Public Presentation of Archaeological and Historical Sites and Landscapes Ghent, East-Flanders 11-13 September 2002

Dieterle, E.,  C. Dede, and K. Schrier, 2007. ,“Neomillennial” Learning Styles Progated by Wireless Handheld Devices 35, Chapter II. Copyright © 2007, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited. Chapter II

copyright 2008 Federation of American Scientists