4.0401 On Technology (3/109)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 21 Aug 90 18:01:15 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0401. Tuesday, 21 Aug 1990.

(1) Date: Mon, 20 Aug 90 20:49 CST (20 lines)
From: Judy Boss <ENG003@UNOMA1>
Subject: Technology, etc.

(2) Date: Tue, 21 Aug 90 10:08 EDT (51 lines)
Subject: Technology

(3) Date: Tue, 21 Aug 90 11:28 PDT (38 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.0394 On Technology (3/63)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 90 20:49 CST
From: <ENG003@UNOMA1>
Subject: Technology, etc.

While I think you're oversimplifying, Skip, I agree with you that
machines are not sinister in themselves; however, the human use of and
dependence upon them does have some sinister elements, I believe.
Several years ago (I cannot remember source and date, alas.) a study of
people using cal- culators included a control group using normal,
functional calculators and a group using calculators modified to provide
erroneous answers. The two groups were given several problems to solve,
and those with the modified calculators believed their calculators even
when the correct answers were fairly obvious and/or easily estimated and
the error was also large and should have been obvious.

Judy Boss
Department of English
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska 68182
bitnet: eng003@unoma1
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------52----
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 90 10:08 EDT
Subject: Technology


My latest cheap digital wrist watch has four buttons which work in
conjunction and in various sequences to control a variety of functions.
For instance, the button used to illuminate the face is also used,
depending upon the 'mode' the watch is in, to set the chime, alarm,
chime & alarm; to set/re-set the stop-watch; to set a reminder
indicator; to set a timer, either in manual or automatic re-set mode....

This wondrous time-keeper is not only flexible, but also complex: is its
complexity required to achieve its flexibility? Could it be made more
'user-friendly' without undue increase in expense or size? Now that I
use this digital watch, has it in any ways changed my practices,
temporal perception, and temporal cognition? Why do I use it rather
than an analogue watch? I could easily use an analogue watch to keep my
appointments, and to know when to go for lunch. Is there something
insidious in the very promotion of digital watches? Does the use of
digital watches entrench consumerism, and enslavement to bureaucratic,
rigidified social structures? Is the use of a digital watch just one
more attribute of a digitalized, speed-crazy, hyper-efficient society
that promotes the use of micro-wave ovens, video-recorders, telephone
interviews as opposed to face-to-face contact, e-mail and fax mail as
opposed to postal mail...?

If I were to opt out of the use of my digital watch, and return to using
an old-fashioned, mechanical time-piece, would that make me a
Neanderthal; a less effective member of contemporary society?

When someone asks one for the time, will one's response be a sure give
away to whether one has coopted into digitalization or whether one has
remained true to humanistic values of metaphor, and analogy: it's
9:16:25, versus "it's just past a quarter past nine in the morning, just
about mid-way to noon".

Once a technological device is invented and used, does the user
irrevocably change? Is there a constant to humanity? Or is humanity as
flexible and changeable as are his inventions? Does it make sense at
all to think either that the nature and uses of technology are
intrinsically dependent on humans; or, that humans are intrinsically the
product of their technological developments. Rather, the relation
between technology and humanity is symbiotic: when the shoe pinches one
change the shoe, but if one decides not to change, the foot deforms to
fit the shoe, and the shoe once old and worn, deforms to fit the foot.
Sheldon Richmond
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------206---
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 90 11:28 PDT
Subject: Re: 4.0394 On Technology (3/63)

To Skip Knox: while I agree 100% that whatever it is, is just a machine,
I cavil at your statement that anthropomorphizing is "the proper
province of poets." As a poet, I would say that poetry makes plain what
the thought/feeling/message is, whereas the social scientist all too
often is unaware of the bad poetry being uttered in the name of a
social science dictum. All language used informally is probably and
basically permeated, tinged, contaminated, perfused, etc., with
metaphor, which is a form of projecting anthropos and all its concerns,
whether projecting at reality to transform it via technology, or at
other anthropoids in order to make them conform in the thought, so as
to have had communication. I hope you would agree to that? I am not
arguing with you, Skip KNox, mere chatting. I always get a bit antsy
when the nonpoets start in confining us to our proper provinces, which
today is a word that is not satisfactory. I think of it rather as
being confined to quarters, which quarters are cordoned off, in
preparation for our starvation, our being withered away, our being
liquidated from the proper provinces of "analysis," so called. There is
a metaphoric analogy for you. And of course, it has happened already
to the poets, patrolled by the dogs and janissaries of the social
sciences, which are scarcely to be thought of as proper sciences at all,
but methods of acquiring and presenting information from which certain
patterns of human reality can be extracted for reification and further
mortification...preferably of others. As for administrators and
publication, they ahve taken great pains to provide (often publicly)
subsidized presses for the publication of materials that will be of use
in obtaining tenured positions for young Ph(u)Ds. Do those books get
sold in even the best bookstores? Where? That part of printing is a
private province for Academe. Well, 'twas ever so. The Scrolls of the
Law remain in the hands of the priesthood till this day, so to say.
(And when they are printed in the vulgate for everyone, you see what
happens? Everyman his own prophet and storefront, tv, whatever, preacher
and in the USA tax evader. Well, we are rich still, and can afford it.
I myse f venerate the god of the Band Aid. Yrs, this silly morning,
Kessler at UCLA