12.0230 Internet addiction

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 30 Sep 1998 22:54:14 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 230.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> (46)
Subject: Re: 12.0224 Internet addiction & other devoted states

[2] From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org> (14)
Subject: Re: 12.0224 Internet addiction & other devoted states

Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 15:29:59 +0100
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
Subject: Re: 12.0224 Internet addiction & other devoted states

Willard and HUMANISTS:

The thread on Internet addiction struck a chord with me, reaching an age
where I can begin to feel I've tried it all -- the Internet, love
affairs, Internet love affairs, drinking, gambling, video games,
blockbuster novels and what-have-you. What strikes me as odd about
discussions about net addiction (and what Willard points out by
indirection, in his canny way) is their forgetfulness that we are
talking about a medium, not a substance. Net users typically log in so
that we may receive something, not the Internet "itself," but something
across it. Are we addicted to the medium or its messages?

I don't think McLuhan's paradox is wrong to invoke here, since this is a
question we may well raise about any addiction. The stuff imbibed may
not, to the bibulous, be more than a means of receiving something:
alcohol is merely a medium for spirits. The course of addiction
treatment, in fact, may include reflection on what that something is
(communion? confirmation? transubstantiation?), an examination of why it
is so important to the addict, and a consideration of how else (by what
means less exclusive or destructive) that something-so-important, that
sacrament, may be acquired or touched. Inevitably such reflection must
cut through the good/evil dichotomies within which "addiction" is
commonly judged, often by that single word.

Scoring 53% (which is probably around what I myself would post) may well
be an occasion for us, individually and personally, to reflect
(again!?). But there's also another side to this. Presumably readers of
HUMANIST are on the net, at least in part, because we're interested in
and concerned with the messages conveyed by this medium. Will it be
spam, advertisements and marketing polls? Or will it be something more
valuable to the ordinary run of us, less directly serviceable to one
interest or another but more valuable to all of us for that reason? What
does it mean to be _human_ on the Internet? Sure, human beings make
spending decisions. At times, we may even welcome the chance to exert a
kind of ambiguous influence by answering a poll. But we also seek
insight, perspective, contact with each other, connection with past and
future, and of better quality than is possible from filling out forms of
checkboxes and accounting codes, whether on insurance applications or
find-a-mate questionnaires. Seeking something so grand and so important,
it's understandable if we sometimes get confused about media and
messages, figures and ground, means and ends.

--Wendell Piez

Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc. http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street, Suite 207 Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD 20850 Fax: 301/315-8285
Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML

Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 09:18:44 -0500
From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org>
Subject: Re: 12.0224 Internet addiction & other devoted states

You write:
"We could also introduce a new prerequisite for enrolment in
basic computing courses ("must be madly in love..."). Or
perhaps just addicted."

We have been looking for enrollment controls due to the huge
increase in students brought on by their interest in the
Internet. I'll pass along your suggestion to the Computer
Science faculty!

Mary Dee

Mary Dee Harris, Ph.D.                  512-477-7213
Language Technology, Inc.               512-477-7351 (fax)
2415 Griswold Lane                      mdharris@acm.org
Austin, TX 78703

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