Inspired by Latour et al’s “The Whole is Always Smaller Than Its Parts: A Digital Test of Gabriel Tarde’s Monads,” I’d like to have a discussion about monads. Latour and his co-authors claim that “monads dissolve the quandary [of describing individuals vs. describing the wholes to which they belong] and redeﬁne the notion of the whole by relocating it as what overlapping entities inherit from one another.” They further claim that databases and modern statistical techniques make a monadological approach practical.
This interests me on a couple of levels. First, I find monadology intriguing as a theory of categories, though I can’t really claim to fully understand it at this point. One of the things that originally drew me to digital humanities was the apparent contradiction between the humanities focus on the unique and particular, and the digital imperative to group under categories. I wonder if monadology actually does suggest a way out of this quandary, or describes it in a more nuanced way. Second, I don’t think that current databases actually do what Latour et al claim that they do, but I’m interested in investigating whether they could.
This could also be an excuse to geek out about functional programming.