11.0214 net-watching

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sun, 3 Aug 1997 22:15:21 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 214.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sun, 03 Aug 1997 11:35:36 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: watching the net

Dear Colleagues:

There are few places in the world outside Silicon Valley, I would suppose,
where computing is regularly front-page news, but the attention paid to our
subject by the Guardian, 8 time-zones and many thousands of miles away from
there, is remarkable. I trust that my habit of reporting on the Guardian
Online section, which comes out each Thursday and which usually can be
devoured in the time it takes to travel on the District line from Mile End
to Temple, is not boring you. Should anyone else discover a useful source of
information, tips and amusements related to computing, he or she is most
welcome to report on it as well.

1. Jack Scofield's "Netwatch" has, this time, a number of intriguing items
listed in it, e.g.
(a) Dormant accounts held in Swiss banks -- a serious issue for those
affected, of course, but it is also an interesting example of accessibility
to information that formerly would have been rather hard for you and I to
get. Scofield's URL, www.dormantaccounts.ch, doesn't work from here (DNS
lookup fails), which I find curious given where Scofield presumably works
from, but a quick flex of AltaVista did turn up the Swiss Rechtsanwaelte,
von Erlach &al., <http://www.vonerlach.ch/>.
(b) The Freepages directory, <http://www.freepages.co.uk/>, to find
businesses in the U.K., with cinema guide, etc. Also an amusing animated GIF
-- esp. given the recent discussion -- of the expression "and/or".
(c) NYBooks, "The Website for the intellectually curious",
<http://www.nybooks.com/>. Contains links to Reader's Catalog Online (ok,
only promised, but worth waiting for, it would seem), "the entire Reader's
Catalog database, annotated and illustrated, will be made available, as well
as a wide-ranging database of over three hundred thousand other titles,
virtually every book *really* available in the country [i.e. U.S.]"; New
York Review of Books. The archive now contains 11 recent issues (February
through July of this year) plus the first issue: "This special exhibition of
our first issue inaugurates an ambitious archival project at The New York
Review: the digital conversion of our entire 34-year publishing history.
Over the next three years, The New York Review archives will be making back
issues available electronically, in monthly increments. All archival
articles will be exactly as they appeared in print and presented in an
easily downloaded or printed form." Scofield notes that about half the
current issue is there too.
(d) About-Face, <http://www.about-face.org/>, "About-Face is a grassroots
effort dedicated to combating negative and distorted images of women and
promoting alternatives through education and action - and humor." Very
effective design too.
(e) Unicef report, "The Progress of Nations",
<http://www.unicef.org/pon97/>. "The Progress of Nations charts the advances
made since the 1990 World Summit for Children, at which governments
pledged to take specific steps to improve the lives of their children."
(f) Jonathan Inglis memorial Web site, <http://inglis.custard.co.uk/>,
maintained by his colleagues as a memorial after his death at age 46 in a
cycling accident. He was a graphic artist, "one of the first exponents of
electronic art in the early eighties using Basic and a BBC-B computer".

2. Douglas Rushkoff, "Before the flood", about the new device marketed by
the American branch of Sega, the Sega Saturn console, "a fully fledged
TV-based Internet browser and online service". "As potentially radical as
the first connection of computer and telephone, videogame access to the
Internet invites an entirely new audience on to the Web, and invites a whole
new style of browsing.... Think of it: millions of kids who previously used
their control pads and keyboards as little more than grenade launchers will
be unleashed on the Net." Indeed, just think of it. Some, when they do, are
deeply disturbed about the shift of focus toward entertainment. "But more
people in our real world are interested in playing games with their
technology than discussing libertarianism, greenhouse gases, or Ram cache.
And in a sense, we snooty intellectuals have been getting a relatively free
ride all along, benefitting from the backbone and servers put in place by
businesses who have seen little, if any, return on their investment." Did we
want an audience for our work? Is this an opportunity, or what?

There's more, of course, but I'm through with transcribing for now.

One final, suggestive note. If you want to get a taste for how topical the
Web can be, and how hot, try searching for "post traumatic stress
disorder", "Gulf War syndrome", or "recovered memory". It might be
interesting, though it would be very risky, to use such material in class,
e.g. to teach a unit in text-analysis. Also interesting and less risky
would be the material dredged up by searching for "tobacco" and "smoking".

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk

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