4.0277 On Memory and Memorials; Information (2) (3/74)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 12 Jul 90 17:42:27 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0277. Thursday, 12 Jul 1990.

(1) Date: Wed, 11 Jul 90 21:13:45 EDT (23 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: memory

(2) Date: Wed, 11 Jul 90 18:55 EDT (8 lines)
From: "Tom Benson" <T3B@PSUVM>
Subject: information

(3) Date: Wed, 11 Jul 90 21:15:52 PDT (43 lines)
Subject: University -- information clearinghouse

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 90 21:13:45 EDT
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: memory

More unsystematic thoughts on memory and its loss. I've noticed that
some people remember facts as factual quanta, others remember facts as
parts of a pattern. (Some people, rare ones, remember in both ways
simultaneously.) As one grows older, and years of accumulated thinking
about certain patterns of thought strengthen them, is it not possible
that the inability to remember things as things may also signify a
mental maturity rather than, or in addition to, a degeneration? What
happens seems in part to depend on one's field of specialization. Us
humanists in this respect seem to have the advantage over mathematicians
and theoretical physicists.

Physical degeneration certainly seems inevitable. But is it not possible
that going down hill may be accompanied, if one works hard at it, by

(It is, of course, entirely irrelevant that my birthday is tomorrow!)

Willard McCarty
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------16----
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 90 18:55 EDT
From: "Tom Benson" <T3B@PSUVM>
Subject: information

Didn't Marshall McLuhan claim that a lightbulb (lit) was pure information?

Tom Benson
Penn State
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------53----
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 90 21:15:52 PDT
Subject: University -- information clearinghouse

Re: university -- information clearinghouse

Now that Willard McCarty is back among us, I will have to watch my
language. He objects to my referring to the university as a "clearing
house for information" in the information age. What rankles him is the
significance of the terms I use, not their informational value. He
objects to what these terms imply about the contemporary university.
For this I'm grateful and stand corrected. A deep bow to the Confucian
reverence for terms.

Where did I get such terms? Recently the letters of Marshall McLuhan
have fascinated me. I note the way his vocabulary widened over the
years, opening up to influence from business, advertising, and the
media. In an effort to break away from the stuffiness of academic life,
he seems sometimes to have betrayed the values he held privately as a

Willard says, "I wonder if the vision of the Information Age, when our
most important commodity is information, has any room at all for the
knowledge of poets and philosophers." Could it be that McLuhan's own
life split him down the center because he tried to reconcile the two
unreconcilables: the university and the information age?

The director of the Kenyon College library wrote recently: "The image
of the humanist scholar in the book-crammed study, thinking deep
thoughts, will continue to be less and less viable in professional

What could this librarian, who knows the hearts of scholars, have meant?
Will we soon bid adieu to the Schreibstube in Faust's "hochgewoelbtes,
engen gotischen Studierzimmer"? Would a computerized library of
exclusively electronic texts signal the renovation of a university that
is on the way to becoming a clearing house for the information society?
Or does today's university have such a strong identity that it can resist
such change?

Mike Heim
Cal State Long Beach