But be that as it may, what really interests me in this post is not Nvivo nor its ability to aid thinking, but a claim made by one of the commenters (if that is a word) who said:
The thing is that all this software is great and of course would sound like a dream 15 years ago, but it is still just translating scholar’s standard activities to digital interface. It’s just a new, faster way of using old methods. It’s maybe time to think about features that have no “analog” counterpart. Tagging is one such thing. Of course an index of a book is a kind of a list of tags. But once you can filter by tags, it becomes something else, it’s not even comparable to an index anymore.It's always been my view that software and computers do just that: provide just new and faster ways of using old methods. In fact, I would be highly suspicious of any feature that does not have an "'analog' counterpart.'" I would need much convincing that it could be a legitimate method. Nor does the example given inspire much hope. Tags are a lame example. As the commenter himself admits, they are "a kind of list of tags." To say that "once you can filter by tags, it [an index] becomes something else" and is not even comparable to an index anymore" is patently false. It is not just "comparable" to an index, it is essentially an index; and such filtered indexes have been important tools in scholarship since the Renaissance. The example provides thus just another example of new and faster way of using old methods.
Just to make sure, I have nothing against using computers and "new and faster ways of using old methods," just as I have nothing against outlines or outliners. I use them myself on a daily basis.
Nor does it mean that that there is no technology that allows us to do things we could never have hoped to do without it (and that actually requires new methods). I am thinking about an electron microscope, for instance.
1. To be sure, that allows mathematicians to "actually" do proofs that would have been impossible for human beings because they would have taken much too long using paper and pencil, but I would suppose even they are essentially "new and faster ways of using old methods," and that would be extremely suspicious, if they were anything else. From what I understand there are some that are even suspicious of such new and faster applications of old methods.