11.0674 gleanings

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 1 Apr 1998 07:55:46 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 674.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Wed, 01 Apr 1998 07:56:25 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: gleanings

>From the Guardian Online section for 26 March, some of which may be found at

(1) "The hacker who turned himself in", about an Israeli, "the Analyser",
against whom the U.S. Government is thundering but "in Israel no one, from
Netanyahu down, has a bad word for him". Plainly the U.S. Government is
worried, as are a number of large companies. "Some analysts have already
concluded that protecting information systems is the central security
challenge of the 21st century, as crucial as battles fought with missles and
bullets." There's at least one Star Trek episode I can recall about that....

(2) Mark Tran, "Trial by e-mail", about the trial of Oliver Jovanovic,
accused of kidnapping and sexual assault, the primary evidence being e-mail
between him and his alleged victim. "Prosecutors say that Jovanovic used his
formidable intellect to dominate the woman emotionally and lure her to a
movie and dinner date, and then to his apartment." They downplay the
importance of her messages to him, which are none too innocent from the
sound of it, and the defense argues that she was an equal player in a game
that went wrong. Whatever the merits on both sides, the case itself gives
more evidence of the degree to which our medium is becoming a fact of life,
such as it is.

(3) Dan Jellinek, "When the Web reaches psychologists' screens", which
begins with phenomena like JenniCam, about which see
<>, among several other sites.
Obvious material for the psychologist. "A Web home page," according to Hugh
Miller (Nottingham Trent), "is a 'constructed identity'... a method by which
people present themselves to the world. Hypertext links allow them to define
themselves as part of wider social groupings." Miller and others gathered
last week for the Internet Research and Information for Social Scientists
conference in Bristol, <http://www.sosig.ac.uk/iriss/>, where you will find
a link to a virtual conference space for ongoing discussion. Edmund Chattoe
(Centre for Research on Simulation in the Social Sciences, Surrey,
<http://www.soc.surrey.ac.uk/research/simsoc/cress.html>), "draws a parallel
between the replication of text messages on the Internet and the survival of
DNA and genetic material.... 'Until now it has been hard to do much with
this idea because it was very difficult to find out which memes people had
in their minds at particular times,' Chattoe says. But the Web allows him
and his team to search for particular pieces of text and watch them spread."
Perhaps this will put new life into text-analysis.

(4) Microfile. Intel has demonstrated a P2 running at 700 MHz and promises
450MHz in the shops by the end of the year. Apple has countered with claims
that the G3 will turn Intel into toast, with cartoon advertising to prove
it. Digital's Aplha is quietly even faster.

(5) Steve Shipside, "Nurse, the screens". IBM is proposing healthcare over
the Net, a system in which the nurse follows a structured clinical
interview, recording her suggestions and her action, forwarding the result
to a physician if you decide you want to see a doctor, who responds by
e-mail. The promise is that the electronic device will help the spread of
the latest techniques, which already trained physicians tend not to use. The
one example cited, prostate cancer, suggests that people tend less often to
opt for surgery than when in front of a physician. One can certainly see a
downside to all this, but as in so many other situations that are
economically driven, or which we allow to be so driven, the alternative(s)
may not be as attractive.

(6) Douglas Rushkoff, "How I learnt to love the government", begins with "a
new branch of technology criticism" known as Technorealism, which (you will
not be surprised to learn) has a Web site, <http://www.technorealism.org/>.
The organisation seeks "to expand the fertile middle ground between
techno-utopianism and neo-Luddism. We are technology 'critics' in the same
way, and for the same reasons, that others are food critics, art critics, or
literary critics. We can be passionately optimistic about some technologies,
skeptical and disdainful of others. Still, our goal is neither to champion
nor dismiss technology, but rather to understand it and apply it in a manner
more consistent with basic human values." Its principles are given on the page:

1. Technologies are not neutral.
2. The Internet is revolutionary, but not Utopian.
3. Government has an important role to play on the electronic frontier.
4. Information is not knowledge.
5. Wiring the schools will not save them.
6. Information wants to be protected.
7. The public owns the airwaves; the public should benefit from their use.
8. Understanding technology should be an essential component of global

On an attached page one is invited to sign up, "join our ranks". People who
have done so are listed on another page (but nowhere I could find are we
told explicitly anything about the organisation itself). In any case,
Rushkoff goes on to talk about the need for regulation of the Internet by
government to prevent the great pirate captains of the age, such as
Microsoft, from taking control of public virtual space. The point of contact
with Technorealism is that blind techo-utopianism plays into the hands of
these pirate captains and so is part of their rhetorical weaponry.
Indirectly its opposite, neo-Luddism, does as well because it is part of the
anti-intellectual escape into the cartoon world of white and black hats --
in which virtue cannot exist without vice.


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