11.0332 gleanings

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 10 Oct 1997 08:21:04 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 332.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 08:12:39 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: gleanings

>From the Guardian for yesterday.

On the front-page:

(1) "British team discover's the Internet's holy grail". A team at Essex, in
conjunction with Canadian researchers, has discovered a means of delivering
Internet services to the home through the electricity mains (powerlines).
The new technology isolates, or is able successfully to extract, the
Internet signals from regular transmission of electrical power. "It will
enable electricity companies to offer their customers Internet access at
speeds 30 times greater than today's high-speed modems... and open the way
to mass marketing of the Internet at prices most families will be able to

Once we complained about our activities and interests not being popular.
Will these become the Gold Old Days? Or is the Internet not something that
the general public will take to? If the technology does become universal,
will this then offer a means for Europeans finally to have access to the
Internet without having to pay per-second connect charges, and if again so,
will the balance of use be shifted away from a preponderance by N.
Americans? Surely too many contingencies for a prediction.

In the Online section:

(2) Karlin Lillington, "Now read on, or back, or sideways, or anywhere", on
hypertext fiction, featuring (of course) Michael Joyce's "afternoon, a
story". The occasion is the decision of the Norton Anthology of Postmodern
American Fiction to include hypertext narratives. "If you look at Mailer,
Pynchon, Burroughs," declares Andrew Levy, one of the editors, "you see that
they were fascinated by the technology and communications media of their
time as well. But you also see that they were trying -- in the 50s and 60s
-- to break the bounds of the printed page and the models of linear
narrative implied by the printed page."

Unfortunately this analysis makes the development of fiction sound like an
inevitable progress toward the enlightened state we have now reached. Poor
Pynchon (not to mention Homer, Vergil, Ovid, Goethe & al.) didn't have the
right toys, etc. Is not the epic technique of beginning in medias res
precisely a creative struggle against the creative constraints of a linear
FIRST-TIME reading? Since when is the total interaction between a book,
printed or otherwise, and a human reader "linear", and to the degree it is,
since when is this a bad thing?

Makes good copy, perhaps, but at the expense of a dangerous line of unreasoning.

(3) Dan Jellinek, "Grid expectations", on the wiring up of Britain's schools
by the Labour government, which made an election promise to connect every
state school in the country to the Internet. This would appear to be a
promise that will be kept. Bill Gates has formally promised, in an
appearance alongside the Prime Minister, help in developing content. The
other night our local TV news had a feature on whether the massive shift to
computers in the schools, already well underway, will result in the
dumbing-down of the next generation. Against computers was an editor of an
American newsmagazine, speaking from San Francisco; for them was the head of
an English school where a pilot project has been in progress for some time.
Interestingly, the editor, his position apparently determined from the
outset, was no match for the calm, carefully reasoned and factually based
argument of the school head. He referred to all kinds of dark possibilities,
unnamed and unspecific studies that suggested this or that evil consequence;
she simply told of her experience in her school.

Do we know?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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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