12.0040 gleanings: sex, chips and a serious bug

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 21 May 1998 19:30:22 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 40.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 19:17:38 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: gleanings

As you know, I tend to buy the Guardian newspaper on Thursdays, principally
for the Online section, looking for things of interest to note here, to hel=
extend our interests from the grindstone to which our noses are put out int=
the world that is eating up great dollops of computing like the proverbial
candy. The fact that gleanings have not appeared on Humanist as regularly i=
recent weeks as before does not covertly point to a leaky roof or exploded
boiler in your editor's lovely Victorian pile in Leyton, but rather to the
thin soup that the Guardian has been serving of late. Could it be that we'v=
passed the point at which our subject is no longer novel enough to fill a

But... perhaps I should take that all back, to wit, in last week's issue:

Karlin Lillington, "Surfing for sex: on the real power behind innovation on
the Web" -- the cover story for today's Online, at
"Not even the defense industry capitalises on new technical developments as
swiftly, and with as much innovation and payback, as pornographers. They bu=
the best equipment, use some of the best Internet service companies in the
business to give them ultra-fast connections directly to the Internet^=D2s
backbone, and are always eager to test the newest applications ^=D7 anythin=
g to
push images as fast as possible to the paying punters at the end of the
mouse. From Web video to live chat, online credit card transactions to imag=
compression technologies, the online sex industry usually got there first
and pioneered the format. As a result, the Internet has made silicone as
ubiquitous as silicon. Sex is the Web^=D2s killer app."=20

If you choose to read the remainder online, consider the case of Danni Ashe=
a former stripper who taught herself HTML. Sociologically "the mutual
fascination between the sex and tech worlds", which her success story
illustrates, should hold our attention long after the content of "Danni's
Hard Drive" (the name of her site) becomes boring -- as, I would suppose, i=
does very rapidly. The close relationship that this mutual fascination
suggests leads me quickly to a fascinating book, Ellen Ullman's Close to th=
Machine: Technophilia and its Discontents (San Francisco: City Lights Books=
1997). No time now for commentary on this, but soon -- unless someone else
would care to review it here.

In today's issue:

(1) John Keeble, "From hackers to knackers", about the recycling of compute=
parts. Hear, hear! This week's cover story, for which see

(2) Jack Schofield, "Netwatch", points to the Alexandria Digital Literature
site, <http://www.alexlit.com/>, which is in essence a virtual bookshop for
purchase of etexts with a software rating system built in. Whether it is as
good as Amazon.com's (which, to quote a friend, is so spooky that you're
likely to think that someone's been following you around observing your
reading habits) remains to be seen. Does anyone have sufficient experience
of this site to say?

(3) Jack Schofield, "What's bugging you?", about the millennium bug, for
which see <http://online.guardian.co.uk/computing/895675553-bug.html>. Scar=
stuff. Some of us can at least now afford to be amused by the survivalists'
reaction, especially in the U.S., the subject of Douglas Rushkoff's piece,
"Shop early for doomsday", at
<http://online.guardian.co.uk/computing/895675184-second.html>. Rushkoff
makes the essential point that the crisis "will be fuelled more by panic
than by lapses in technology.... This isn't about computer programming at
all, but about the real values infusing what we like to think of as our
civil society. With any luck, we'll come to understand that there's more to
survival than meets the 'I'."=20

There are some very sober people with very sobering things to say about thi=
crisis, e.g. Ed Yourdon, "doyen of American programming", who thinks the
crisis will have about the same impact as the OPEC oil crisis in the 70s.=

Schofield's article lists online sources for software with which to test
one's own system.

That's enough for now. To put the matter mildly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -=20
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=20

Humanist Discussion Group=20
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